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District investigating allegations against Drake

Attorney: Coach asks that unsubstantiated claims be removed from his file

Brent Boyer

Resigning Steamboat Springs High School football coach Mark Drake has asked the school district to remove unsubstantiated allegations from his personnel file, his attorney said Tuesday.

The Steamboat Springs School Board issued a release Tuesday stating it had voted to deny a request from an employee “to remove all unsubstantiated allegations against said employee from his/her personnel file.” The School Board took the action late Monday night after meeting in executive session.

Citing confidentiality laws, Superintendent Donna Howell would not name the employee who made the request. Michele Desoer, Drake’s attorney, said her client did request such an action of the School Board.

The Steamboat Pilot & Today asked Drake’s attorney if the longtime coach would allow the newspaper to review his personnel file. Desoer, who was in Europe until Monday, has not responded to the request.

Drake submitted a letter of resignation before the season, but didn’t make that resignation public until he informed his players before an Oct. 17 game against Rifle. Several days later, Desoer said the school district forced Drake to resign after 35 years of coaching at the high school.

District officials contend Drake willingly submitted his resignation in August, when he signed a one-semester contract to continue coaching and teaching part time. Officials also said the district is continuing to investigate allegations against Drake.

“We cannot give any specific information out because we’re bound by laws of confidentiality,” Howell said Tuesday. “I have a responsibility to investigate allegations as they come up.”

Howell and Steamboat Springs High School Principal Dave Schmid are conducting the investigation. Law enforcement agencies are not involved, Howell said. The school district hasn’t provided Drake or Desoer any specifics of the allegations, such as names, dates or specific actions allegedly made by the coach, Desoer said Tuesday.

“We think it’s their obligation to give us the information,” Desoer said. “There has not been one substantive-fact allegation given to us.”

School Board President Paul Fisher said Drake was aware of the allegations against him and that he also was aware the district couldn’t discuss specifics. “He understands a lot,” Fisher said. “He’s driving this thing, and he’s doing it with our hands tied behind our backs.”

Drake’s employment agreement, a copy of which was obtained by the Steamboat Pilot & Today, includes two signed letters of resignation. In the first letter, dated June 28 and addressed to former Superintendent Cyndy Simms and Schmid, Drake writes of his continued passion for teaching and coaching shortly before announcing his resignation.

“With reluctance, it is my intent to resign from my teaching and coaching position at the conclusion of the 2003-04 school year,” the letter reads. “It is my desire to keep this confidential, as to not disrupt the continuity of the students and athletes, until I choose to make the official announcement.”

The second letter, dated Aug. 18 and addressed to the School Board, requests a private meeting with the board.

“In compliance to your request, I am submitting my resignation effective at the conclusion of the first semester of the 2003-04 school year,” the letter reads. “I am requesting the opportunity to meet privately with the Board of Education regarding this matter.”

Drake’s contract is considered post-retirement because he opted to retire from full-time teaching several years ago. He has continued to teach part time and coach football under a post-retirement agreement that allows him to collect retirement benefits from the Colorado Public Employees Retirement Association for up to 110 days per calendar year while also receiving his normal salary.

This semester, Drake will earn $13,975.29 teaching two classes at the high school and coaching the football team. His contract ends at the end of the semester in January.

District employees such as Drake who sign post-retirement agreements waive any right to tenure because they technically have retired. Employees who work post-retirement typically sign one-year agreements and have no legal right to continued employment.

School districts don’t need to provide a reason for not renewing a post-retirement employment agreement.

About 10 people, mostly parents of high school football players, attended Monday’s School Board meeting to voice support for Drake. One of the parents asked for more information about the matter.

“The (School) Board is comfortable with sharing more information with the community if coach Drake gives us permission,” Fisher said. Drake hasn’t granted that permission, he said.

Drake’s team finished the regular season 9-1 and will host Sterling in the first round of the playoffs Saturday. It is the 14th time in his coaching career that Drake has guided the Sailors to the playoffs. Drake has been the team’s head coach for 30 years, and the Sailors won a state championship in 1979 with him at the helm.

— To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com


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