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Shepherd: 'Safe to assume' personnel changes

The superintendent of the Linn-Mar school district said Thursday there could be personnel changes at Linn-Mar High School as a result of the ongoing state investigation into the school's football program.

The Iowa Board of Educational Examiners (BoEE) is currently investigating charges that Linn-Mar families have filed against assistant football coach Matt Casebolt, head coach Bob Forsyth, retiring athletic director Scott Mahmens and principal Jeff Gustason.

"I think it would be safe to assume that we could expect some personnel changes moving forward next year," Dr. Quintin Shepherd, the Linn-Mar superintendent, told the Metro Sports Report Thursday morning.

Shepherd declined to specify what the personnel changes might be, citing due process and privacy rights of employees, but said the school district is making contingency plans to replace personnel if and when the time comes.

"We are in the process of doing what we need to do as a district to try and forestall any detrimental impact on the program in the middle of the season," he remarked. "We're always trying to put ourselves in position in the district where we don't react to something that an outside entity might do to us, but that we're responding to it in a way that's pro-active.

"If we can position our program now, whatever the BoEE does hopefully won't impact our program or our kids, and that's what we're trying to do now."

Shepherd said he does not know when the BoEE will finish its investigation or what action the state board will take. "I have no sense at all of when it will be completed," he said.

The BoEE does not publicly comment on investigations, but the BoEE has confirmed to Linn-Mar families that Casebolt, Forsyth, Mahmens and Gustason are all being investigated.

Five Linn-Mar families began the process by charging the coaches and administrators with improper conduct. They claim the coaches have verbally and mentally abused their sons with taunts and bullying tactics, and they claim the administrators have failed to take proper action to stop the pattern of abuse.

Two families have also claimed that Casebolt physically abused their sons, once by slamming a circular weight into a player's face and once by instructing a player to handle broken glass with bare hands.

Another family has claimed it took Linn-Mar personnel more than three hours to notify a family that their son may have suffered a concussion during a supervised drill, causing a delay in medical treatment for the concussion.

The Linn-Mar families complained to the school district, which conducted an in-house investigation and dismissed all charges in February due to insufficient evidence. Mahmens and Gustason helped conduct that investigation, even though they were two of the people who had been accused of not taking timely action against the coaches.

The families then complained to the Linn-Mar Board of Education, which issued a blanket endorsement of the district and the in-house investigation, all of which prompted the families to file their complaints with the BoEE.

The Metro Sports Report broke the news about the five families and their complaints in February, and since then approximately 25 more families have joined the process and have echoed the original complaints with complaints of their own.

The BoEE has the authority to strip coaches, teachers and administrators of their state licenses. In a case several years ago, the BoEE stripped former Cedar Rapids Washington football coach Tony Lombardi of his coaching license for a year for improper conduct.

Forsyth and Casebolt have been involved in summer activities this month for football players, so no apparent changes have been made in their job descriptions at this point. Mahmens will retire as the school's athletic director at the end of June, taking early retirement under school district policy.

There have been unconfirmed reports that the Linn-Mar school district has conducted or commissioned a second investigation, but Shepherd declined to confirm or deny.

"We're not officially releasing that information yet," he said. "As part of the BoEE investigation we want to make sure that we're following all of the protocol related to that, just to make sure we're doing our due diligence.

"As I've said to you from the beginning, we're going to do our due diligence with the investigation every step of the way. And at such a point when we have information that we can say, 'Here's what we've got, it's concluded, it's over,' then we're going to release all that information.

"We will announce when we are ready to announce," he said.

Shepherd began his duties as Linn-Mar superintendent on July 1, 2015 and is finishing his first year on the job. His initial starting salary was $215,000.

 

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