Mark Drake is being forced out as head football coach at Steamboat Springs High School after 35 years with the Sailors, his attorney said Tuesday.
In response, Steamboat Springs School District officials said Drake willingly submitted his resignation in August and signed a contract that expires Jan. 14.
Drake will coach the remainder of the football season and continue teaching physical education part time until the end of the semester. Under his guidance, the Sailors are 7-1 this season and play Moffat County High School on Friday in a game that could decide the Western Slope League title.
Drake's resignation was kept quiet until last Friday, when the coach informed his players before their game with Rifle that this season would be his last.
Drake referred questions to his attorney, Michelle M. Desoer. Desoer said Drake wanted to continue coaching, but that the district would not offer him that option. Desoer said her client is not prepared at this time to discuss what prompted the school district to take the stance it did.
School Superintendent Donna Howell said the administrative decision regarding Drake's contract was made before her arrival in July. She said the School Board acted on his six-month contract in August.
"Basically, (Drake) was offered a six-month contract and in there was a clause requiring him to submit a letter of resignation as part of the contract," Howell said.
Howell said Drake would not be offered a new contract.
"The only thing that I can share is that the decision was for personnel reasons, and whenever there is a personnel issue, that is confidential," Howell said. "Mark has all the information as to the rationale behind the decision."
Pat Gleason, a Steamboat Springs School Board member, spoke in support of Drake when the board took action on the contract. Gleason said Tuesday that there is an ongoing investigation involving allegations against Drake. Gleason would not specify the allegations.
"I think the process is occurring," Gleason said. "If somebody makes an allegation, it is the duty of the district, legally and morally, to investigate those allegations."
Desoer said she was unaware of the allegations against Drake, though she has asked the district for information. "I have been trying to get something substantive from the school district that we can respond to or investigate," Desoer said. "But they have given us nothing. We have investigated a few minor things, but they have been nothing."
Drake retired from full-time teaching several years ago, but he continued to coach and teach part time under a 110-day contract approved by the School Board, board President Paul Fisher said.
Several Steamboat teachers and administrators are under such contracts, which allow the teacher to draw retirement pay while essentially working part time for the district. Teachers signed to such contracts forfeit their tenure because they technically have retired.
Desoer and Drake met Tuesday with Howell, Desoer said, but she would not discuss details of the meeting. Desoer said she hoped to "resolve this situation short of legal action." However, she would not rule out any options.
Howell said the school district's attorney has indicated that Drake's legal options are limited. "My understanding is that he has no legal recourse," Howell said. "He willingly signed a contract for six months and submitted his resignation."
Howell also said the School Board is under no obligation to provide a reason for not renewing someone on a 110-day contract. A teacher signed to such a contract "has no right to continued employment," Howell said. "It is year to year and assignment to assignment."
Drake, 56, has been with the Steamboat football team for 35 years -- five years as an assistant and 30 as the head coach. He led the Sailors to a state championship in 1979. Under his guidance, Steamboat has made 13 playoff appearances and won five league titles.
He has been named the Western Slope League's coach of the year six times and twice served as coach of the Colorado All-State Game. Last summer, he was selected by the state's coaches to attend the NFL Youth Summit as Colorado's representative and received the Ed Lesar Award for his contributions to high school football.
Gleason said Drake's coaching contributions were significant. "I think coach Drake has been an asset to this school and to this community," Gleason said.
Howell said she and the board have treated Drake fairly. "I believe that this board would not have taken action in an arbitrary and capricious manner."
Howell said the search for a new coach would begin next semester.
Scott Stanford contributed to this report.
To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208.