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The superintendent of the Boys State Training School in Eldora resigned last week amid an investigation at the school.
Wendy Leiker, who was appointed to the job Aug. 28, 2020, was not asked to resign, but “offered her resignation in the course of an investigation,” Iowa Department of Human Services Spokesman Matt Highland said in a statement Thursday.
“Although we are limited in the information we can share, we want to make clear her departure is not due to any concern related to student safety,” Highland said. “DHS remains committed to the success of BSTS and the critical work of building out services in compliance with the remedial plan.”
DHS Director Kelly Garcia said at a meeting Thursday she had appointed Jason Sodders, a deputy to Leiker, as interim superintendent at the residential school for delinquent boys ages 12 to 18.
Garcia told the Iowa Council on Human Services she couldn’t share many details about the investigation, but said Leiker’s departure had nothing to do with reforms the school was required to do after losing a 2017 federal class-action lawsuit in which former students alleged abuse.
In February, a court-appointed monitor said the school was making good progress on a 25-point remedial plan.
Garcia said Leiker’s resignation also wasn’t connected to a “spike in violence on campus” but did not elaborate.
The Des Moines Register reported last month there had been an increase in assaults of students and staff as the school tries to move away from harsh discipline.
Garcia said she and other staff visited the school this week to talk with staff and students.
“It was not on the regular schedule of when we are normally out there because we know that any change at the top feels unsettling to our team members who want to make sure that they feel supported in this time of transition,” she said.
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Gazette reporter Rod Boshart contributed to this report.