Additional reporting by Don Dike-Anukam
The Washoe County School District today announced that Superintendent Traci Davis has taken an indefinite leave of absence from the district for personal reasons.
What was not announced is that her colleagues, Chief Student Services Officer Byron Green and Chief of Staff David Lasic, are suddenly no longer district employees. Green and Lasic, who are married, both saw noted career advancements and pay increases after coming to Washoe County from Clark County School District.
“I can confirm that Byron Green and Davis Lasic are no longer with the school district,” said district spokesperson Megan Downs.
Green was an elementary school principal in 2009, according to Transparent Nevada, and he became an area superintendent in Washoe in 2013. Lasic was an administrative secretary in Clark County in 2009, making $51,000 a year. He advanced in Washoe County to Chief of Staff making nearly $197,000 a year, also according to Transparent Nevada.
Deputy Superintendent Kristen McNeill was appointed today as acting superintendent. Davis’ performance and employment would need to be considered during a public meeting of the school board.
Board Trustee Andrew Caudill said he could not comment on the situation.
“Any decision or action by the board will and must be done in an open meeting for the public,” he said.
The board will eventually have to name an official interim superintendent depending on the length of Davis’ absence.
The news comes in the wake of a number of controversies facing the district.
Those include the illegal firing of an administrator, trying to deny legally entitled unemployment benefits for that administrator, denying public records requests — despite a court order in one case — low morale at the district among teachers, dodging the news media, fighting with the state over funding, approving “digital snow days” despite the state forewarning the district that they were not legal, and poorly rolling out digital days on social media.
Davis has been criticized for lack of effective leadership. A Change.org petition calling for her removal in March had more than 3,000 signatures. Nevertheless, the Nevada Independent reported at the time that “she is not backing down.”
Those controversies pointed to an overall lack of confidence among the district’s leadership. The Board of Trustees, through Board President Katy Simon Holland, has publicly defended Davis.
Today’s announcement, in addition to the sudden leave of two other top administrators, draws speculation that something — or many things — potentially tipped the board to toward considering dismissing Davis for
Board President Simon Holland said, however, that she is unaware of why Davis is on leave.
The exact reason for her taking leave is unknown, but the departure of Lasic and Green hints that it could have to do with former administrator Jenny Hunt’s case against the district.
Hunt worked for Green and was fired from the district. Green, though placed on leave at the time, retained his job. Hunt filed suit against the district. Legal filings show the case proceeding in U.S. District Court.
Her attorney, Francis Flaherty, said the district deprived Hunt of her due process rights and discriminated against her. He did not return a call for comment by the time of publication.
Board Chair: No Idea Why Davis Went on Leave
Simon Holland said later today that she had no idea why Davis is on leave.
“She sent an email saying she wanted a leave of absence for personal reasons,” Simon Holland told ThisisReno. “She’s out of the office now so she’s not accessing emails.”
The board policy cited by the district for appointing McNeill as acting superintendent is meant for continuity in the case of an emergency or a short- and long-term absence by the superintendent.
“Certainly one of the uses of that board policy is for emergency situations, but it specifically talks about continuity of operations in the board policy, and it’s intended for situations for when the superintendent is not there, is not available, so that we do not have to have board action,” she added. “It’s very clear what happens and that is what has occurred.”
That policy also says that McNeil, as acting superintendent, “shall consult with the Superintendent, if available, on major decisions and continue to implement the annual goals of the Superintendent and District Strategic Plan…”
I asked Simon Holland if that was going to occur. Her response: “Well, she’s out. She’s on a leave of absence, so she’s not here to be consulted with.”
Simon Holland said she could not comment on why Lasic and Green were let go, pushed out, or resigned.
News of Davis’ leave from the district was first reported last night by KRNV’s Joe Hart. (ThisisReno, in accordance with established journalism ethics, strives to credit other news sources that break stories.)
This is a developing story and may be updated.