School district stands ground

District won't change Drake decision

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The Steamboat Springs School Board on Monday stood behind its decision to deny high school football coach and teacher Mark Drake a 36th year of employment, despite loud protests from a board room packed with supporters of the coach.

About 80 people attended the School Board meeting, and several, including students and parents of high school athletes, criticized the district and the board for the way they have handled the Drake situation. Some hinted at legal action.

Drake did not attend Monday's meeting; however, his attorney, Michele Desoer, said the longtime coach is "very touched" by the community support.

Drake has said he was forced out of the district when the School Board made him submit a letter of resignation in exchange for a contract allowing him to coach one more season. The school district said it is investigating allegations made against Drake and that the coach and part-time teacher has no right to another contract because of the post-retirement agreement he opted for several years ago.

District employees hired under post-retirement agreement have no right to continued employment and must re-apply for positions with the district every year.

At Monday's meeting, Richard Lyons, the school district's attorney, said the School Board acted appropriately in August when it approved a one-semester contract for Drake that included the letter of resignation.

"Based on the information I've reviewed, I believe the former (School) Board that took action in August took appropriate action based on the information it had before it," Lyons said to the board. "It is my conclusion and a legal recommendation to you that you don't take further action on this matter."

Desoer again requested specific information from the district in regards to the allegations that allegedly had an impact on the school district's decision to force Drake's hand.

"We still haven't been provided any names, any dates to which we can respond," Desoer said. "We have the right to have things taken out of his personnel file that aren't fact. In my 20 years of law I've never seen an investigation handled this way."

Desoer said she and her client want the names of accusers and the dates of any allegations, and she proposed that a neutral third party take over the investigation.

Superintendent Donna Howell said she wouldn't provide any names.

"I have the responsibility to protect the identity and the emotional and physical well-being of students and employees," Howell said.

Neither the school district nor Drake will say what the allegations against him involve. Drake and Desoer have not responded to a Steamboat Pilot & Today request to review a copy of Drake's personnel file.

Lyons rejected claims that Drake's due-process rights have been violated because Drake has no right to another contract given the terms of the post-retirement agreement he signed.

"It is not subject to a hearing, a trial or a cross-examination," Lyons said.

Any time allegations are in an employee's personnel file, that individual has a right to respond, Desoer said.

Drake has responded to past allegations, and those written responses are part of his file, Howell said.

"In every situation where he has been given allegations, he has had the right to respond to those allegations, and he has responded to some of them," Howell said.

Citing confidentiality laws, the district said it can't reveal the contents of Drake's personnel file.

Desoer said she believes the file could become public because former superintendent Cyndy Simms took portions of the file with her to Washington when she accepted a job in a Seattle-area district.

Howell couldn't immediately be reached for comment to discuss that statement.

Charlie Pappas, a high school junior and a member of this year's football team that finished with an 11-2 record including a trip to the state semifinals, defended his coach.

"The guy's a father," Pappas said. "He's a father to every kid on this team. Without my dad, I'd go to coach Drake."

Some members of the public lashed out at the School Board for its handling of the situation.

Assistant football coach Kevin Kaminski called the board's actions a "witch hunt" and a "kangaroo court."

Desoer declined to say whether Drake would pursue legal action against the district.

"We're considering our options," she said.

The school district is confident its decision is a proper and legal one, Howell said.

"We believe that should he take this matter to a court of law we would be successful," she said..

About 80 people attended the School Board meeting, and several, including students and parents of high school athletes, criticized the district and the board for the way they have handled the Drake situation. Some hinted at legal action.

Drake did not attend Monday's meeting; however, his attorney, Michele Desoer, said the longtime coach is "very touched" by the community support.

Drake has said he was forced out of the district when the School Board made him submit a letter of resignation in exchange for a contract allowing him to coach one more season. The school district said it is investigating allegations made against Drake and that the coach and part-time teacher has no right to another contract because of the post-retirement agreement he opted for several years ago.

District employees hired under post-retirement agreement have no right to continued employment and must re-apply for positions with the district every year.

At Monday's meeting, Richard Lyons, the school district's attorney, said the School Board acted appropriately in August when it approved a one-semester contract for Drake that included the letter of resignation.

"Based on the information I've reviewed, I believe the former (School) Board that took action in August took appropriate action based on the information it had before it," Lyons said to the board. "It is my conclusion and a legal recommendation to you that you don't take further action on this matter."

Desoer again requested specific information from the district in regards to the allegations that allegedly had an impact on the school district's decision to force Drake's hand.

"We still haven't been provided any names, any dates to which we can respond," Desoer said. "We have the right to have things taken out of his personnel file that aren't fact. In my 20 years of law I've never seen an investigation handled this way."

Desoer said she and her client want the names of accusers and the dates of any allegations, and she proposed that a neutral third party take over the investigation.

Superintendent Donna Howell said she wouldn't provide any names.

"I have the responsibility to protect the identity and the emotional and physical well-being of students and employees," Howell said.

Neither the school district nor Drake will say what the allegations against him involve. Drake and Desoer have not responded to a Steamboat Pilot & Today request to review a copy of Drake's personnel file.

Lyons rejected claims that Drake's due-process rights have been violated because Drake has no right to another contract given the terms of the post-retirement agreement he signed.

"It is not subject to a hearing, a trial or a cross-examination," Lyons said.

Any time allegations are in an employee's personnel file, that individual has a right to respond, Desoer said.

Drake has responded to past allegations, and those written responses are part of his file, Howell said.

"In every situation where he has been given allegations, he has had the right to respond to those allegations, and he has responded to some of them," Howell said.

Citing confidentiality laws, the district said it can't reveal the contents of Drake's personnel file.

Desoer said she believes the file could become public because former superintendent Cyndy Simms took portions of the file with her to Washington when she accepted a job in a Seattle-area district.

Howell couldn't immediately be reached for comment to discuss that statement.

Charlie Pappas, a high school junior and a member of this year's football team that finished with an 11-2 record including a trip to the state semifinals, defended his coach.

"The guy's a father," Pappas said. "He's a father to every kid on this team. Without my dad, I'd go to coach Drake."

Some members of the public lashed out at the School Board for its handling of the situation.

Assistant football coach Kevin Kaminski called the board's actions a "witch hunt" and a "kangaroo court."

Desoer declined to say whether Drake would pursue legal action against the district.

"We're considering our options," she said.

The school district is confident its decision is a proper and legal one, Howell said.

"We believe that should he take this matter to a court of law we would be successful," she said.

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