A story about California High School coach Bob Donovan speaking at the San Ramon Valley school board meeting about his recent resignation as California High School's basketball coach incorrectly reported when Donovan returned to coaching. It was 2010.
SAN RAMON -- A former California High School coach, who says he was forced out by allegations in an anonymous email campaign, turned the heat on the San Ramon Valley school board Tuesday night.
In a speech that was strident and emotional, teacher Bob Donovan accused the administration of hypocrisy for demanding his resignation as head coach of the varsity basketball team while still trusting him to teach.
The district would not comment on why Donovan resigned from his coaching position in September, but Donovan said he was forced out for allowing former Bishop O'Dowd High School basketball coach Mike Phelps to observe an open gym session in the California High School gym in October 2010.
Phelps was once the winningest high school basketball coach in state history, but his reputation was sullied in 2003 when he pleaded not guilty to molesting a child four decades prior. The charge was dismissed without a trial after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a California law that allowed prosecutors to file charges against those accused of sex offenses after the statute of limitations had expired.
On Tuesday night, the board's Danville meeting room was packed, and the mood was celebratory as local politicians came out to laud school board member Paul Gardner, who was stepping down after 12 years. Speakers also congratulated the board on the passage of Proposition 30 and the apparent passage of a $260 million school facilities bond, which put the high-scoring school district on solid financial ground.
But when Donovan took the podium, the mood abruptly changed.
"Our reputations and careers are not safe in the hands of the district," Donovan told the board.
Teachers, students, coaches and district employees cheered him on as he told of a yearlong anonymous email campaign by parents making accusations against him that he called lies. At one point, a man in the audience approached the podium to pat Donovan on the back when he got choked up after stating that he had been barred from ever coaching in the district again.
Donovan, a 30-year social studies teacher at the high school, coached the basketball team since 2010 after previously coaching the team from 1983 to 1990.
He said a group of parents had anonymously emailed district administrators with various accusations against him, including that he had dropped "f-bombs" on one of his players and had told football players not to try out for the basketball team, he said.
One parent had verbally assaulted him during a tournament, he said.
In September, Donovan said he and his attorney met with Superintendent Mary Shelton and Assistant Superintendent Jessica Romeo.
"Ms. Shelton informed me that I was exonerated of all the charges made by the parent except for allowing Mike Phelps into the gym," Donovan told the board. "Ms. Shelton went on to inform me that, in her opinion, I made a poor decision to let Mr. Phelps into the gym, and she could not defend my decision to this parent or any other parent. They gave me a choice to resign or be fired. Ms. Romeo further stated that while the district's decision would not affect my teaching position, I would never be allowed to coach in the San Ramon Valley Unified District again."
Miguel Campos, who was the team's assistant coach last year, vouched for Donovan's integrity at the meeting. He said a few local parents were behind the ouster and said one of the women involved had told him: "We are very wealthy. I don't work, and I have nothing but time. I'm going to fight this to the end."
"I am here to tell all of you that I am absolutely disgusted with the way this was handled," Cal High senior and basketball team manager Oren Abrahams told the board to loud applause from the crowd.
Board President Greg Marvel said the board could not comment on the issue unless it was placed on the board's meeting agenda, and Donovan agreed to waive his right to confidentiality on personnel issues.
The Bay Area New Group received anonymous emails and a phone call from Donovan's detractors prior to his resignation. They could not be reached by press time.
Contact Jason Sweeney at 925-847-2123. Follow him at Twitter.com/Jason_Sweeney.