Cedar Rapids school board approves interim Washington High leaders, new investigators

Superintendent: Excited to welcome students back after summer break

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CEDAR RAPIDS — The night before classes began for the 2016-2017 school year, Cedar Rapids school board members approved the hiring of two interim top leaders at Washington High.

Board members Monday unanimously approved Washington’s interim Principal Carlos Grant and interim Athletics Director Grant Schultz for this school year. Members Mary Meisterling and Nancy Humbles were absent.

“I’m sure there’s lots of excited young learners and families,” Superintendent Brad Buck said of all the district’s students on the eve of the school year. “We’re excited to welcome them.”

The district will begin a search in January for long-term replacements for Principal Ralph Plagman and Athletics Director Michael Johnson, who both stepped down this month as the district investigates Washington administrators’ actions on substitute teacher Mary Beth Haglin, 24, who is facing a charge of sexual exploitation of a Washington student.

Johnson was an associate principal for 21 years before moving to the athletics director position in July. Plagman was principal for 35 years and worked in the district for 49.

Buck also presented the board with the district’s Level 1 investigators — district employees who should be trained to conduct investigations of employee abuse of students, including sexual abuse. The board typically approves investigators annually.

In investigating Haglin, Washington administrators did not involve a Level 1 Investigator, and a Gazette review of training records showed all of the district’s investigators were overdue for training.

Val Dolezal, the district’s executive director of prekindergarten through eighth grade, was approved as the primary investigator.

Coolidge Elementary Principal Greg O’Connell and Jefferson High Principal Chuck McDonnell were named alternates.

Dolezal and O’Connell were both investigators last school year and years overdue for training, which is required by law every five years.

They have since undergone training, and records show McDonnell also received training on Aug. 17.

The names of the investigators typically are presented to the board by its human resources director, but Jill Cirivello — who presented the untrained investigators to the board last year — no longer works there.

The board approved the Cedar Rapids Police Department as the district’s Level 2 Investigator — the party that would investigate a claim of abuse if the Level 1 Investigator deems a claim to be founded.

Last school year, the Level 2 Investigator was St. Luke’s Child Protection Center.

“Engaging law enforcement seems like a more common model than what we’d been doing,” Buck said.

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