Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
WASHINGTON — School board members voted against a release of contract for high school History Teacher Jake Steen Wednesday night, after the instructor gave his obligatory 21-day notice.
“Our policy states that they have to be extreme or unusual circumstances for the district to allow them to be released from a contract,” Superintendent Willie Stone said. “This is something that is within Mr. Steen’s control, so the recommendation would be to deny the release of contract.”
Stone said the board could not stop Steen from leaving after posting the 21-day notice, but denying the release of contract obligates the district to report the teacher to the Department of Education if he decides to follow through on plans to switch to the private sector.
“It can go as far as losing his license, it can go to suspension of his license by 3-6 months, or it can go to something as little as … a reprimand,” he said. “That would be decided by (the DOE.) We can make recommendations, but once we take it there, we have to pursue it.”
Stone said the case was unusual, and hadn’t previously come up in his 18 years as superintendent across multiple districts.
If Steen leaves, the district would likely hire a long-term sub, with the possibility of adding students to the building’s current high school teachers later in the school year.
“There’s nobody out there right now that would be able to teach history,” Stone said. “While us giving someone a semester is a good possibility, right away we’ll have to look toward a long-term sub.”
The district does not plan to revoke Steen’s football coaching contract, as the teacher said he could still meet its obligations at his planned new job.
“I think we’d have four days left in the season, one practice and a game, I think it would be silly for us to cancel that,” Stone said. “That would essentially be hurting out students, removing their coach before their last game … if he chooses to stay with football, that is the best option for our kids.”
Stone said there was no animosity in Steen’s change of plans.
“There are different reasons, it’s not because he doesn’t want to be with our kids,” he said. “He does go above and beyond for our students, so there are other reasons, I just don’t feel comfortable in an open public setting to say what those reasons are without him being here.”
Board members agreed, saying they were sympathetic.
“It’s hard to not think about the individual who’s involved (when) there’s a personal situation,” Board President Eric Turner said. “I think we kind of have to remove that and think about this as just a contractual situation and follow through on the policies that we have set.”