Lodi Unified School District Trustee Ken Davis spoke out about the Liberty High School grade-doctoring scandal Tuesday night, denying any involvement and saying he will not seek another term on the board.
During the board meeting, Davis lashed out at a report by a lawyer hired by the district, saying it contained damaging rumors.
He also criticized the News-Sentinel and said its reporting has harmed his nonprofit foundation’s ability to raise money.
His comments rose from an investigative report by an outside law firm hired by the district to look into grade changes by former Liberty High School principal Robert Rivas. The report confirmed that Rivas improperly changed grades — and included the contention of district employees that Rivas made the changes at the behest of Davis, so the students could qualify for a program Davis founded.
Davis said the report read in such a way that it alleged he was involved in Rivas’ decision to change the grades of certain students to allow them to be eligible for the afterschool program that partnered the district and local private institution Humphreys College in Stockton.
Davis also stated that a picture run by the News-Sentinel of Davis posing with Rivas suggested that the two were “conspirators” in the event.
The News-Sentinel ran separate photos of both on the front page of the Aug. 10 issue.
“As for Robert Rivas, while I do not condone what actions he may or may not have been responsible for, there is no denying that he spent a lifetime dedicated to helping our most needy children in this district,” he said.
Davis also addressed the impact the investigation has had on his private foundation, the Achievement Gap Educational Foundation.
The foundation funded the afterschool program, and has been the subject of inquiries by the News-Sentinel.
“The Lodi News-Sentinel called all of my sponsors that have subsidized this program for low-income kids and made them aware of this alleged incident,” he said. “Half of them at this point have indicated they are not interested in continuing the support of my foundation, which addresses the needs of individuals who have no opportunity to attend a college, let alone a four-year college.”
Representatives of PG&E and General Mills, two of the companies listed as sponsors on the foundation’s website, told the News-Sentinel last week they never provided any kind of monetary support to the foundation.
Because of the notifications that sponsors would not be continuing their support, Davis said he elected to withdraw his foundation from funding the afterschool program.
The district has elected not to resume the program this year, according to Odie Douglas, the district’s assistant superintendent.
Davis concluded his address with confirmation that he will not be running for another term after his current one ends next year, though this decision, he said, was not a result of the current controversy.
“It is time for me to move on,” he said. “But in the meantime, those who know me, know that I do not, will not back down from a fight.”
Earlier in the meeting, Davis pulled an item from the agenda’s consent agenda, a list of routine business typically approved with a single board vote.
He addressed a nearly $9,000 bill on the agenda tonight, to be paid to the legal firm and attorney Donna Matties, who investigated the grade-changing issues.
The remaining $11,000 to be paid to the firm will be addressed at a later date.
“I feel like the attorney was far-reaching in her investigation based on hearsay,” Davis said. “I am not in favor of paying for the work she did.”
While he ultimately voted in favor of the expense, Neely said he agreed with everything Davis said. “But we have a bill to pay,” he said.
Trustee Ruth Davis abstained from voting on the item for undisclosed reasons.
News-Sentinel staff writer Jennifer Bonnett contributed to this report.
Contact reporter Katie Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org.