K-12 Education

Forest City teacher who made racist remarks resigns

Third-grade teacher was working as announcer at boys' basketball game

Holly Jane Kusserow-Smidt

(Mason City Globe Gazette photo)
Holly Jane Kusserow-Smidt (Mason City Globe Gazette photo)

FOREST CITY — The Forest City third-grade teacher who made racist comments during an online broadcast of a Forest City-Eagle Grove boys’ basketball game has resigned.

Holly Jane Kusserow-Smidt resigned Thursday, and her resignation was accepted by the school board Friday. She had worked for the district 43 years.

“The comments I made were inappropriate and not a true reflection of who I am I or what I believe,” Kusserow-Smidt wrote in her resignation letter. “I had no idea a private conversation would become a public issue.

“I am sorry for the unnecessary stress and negative publicity that has resulted from the private conversation. I sincerely hope that the students and communities affected can positively move forward.”

She did not attend the meeting and could not be reached for comment.

Kusserow-Smidt and longtime KIOW radio sports announcer Orrin Harris could be heard on the Nov. 28 online telecast commenting about three players on the Eagle Grove basketball team with Latino names, wondering if they were “foreigners.”

“As Trump would say, go back to where you came from,” Harris says at one point.

Kusserow-Smidt responds: “Some would say that. Some days I feel like that, too.”

The conversation appears to occur during a commercial break, but it was carried live on the internet. It was not broadcast on the radio station.

KIOW fired both the announcers and apologized for their remarks.

The resignation agreement between the Forest City district and Kusserow-Smidt states she will be paid through Feb. 23 and receive benefits through Aug. 31, 2018.

Her salary is $69,792.

In return, Kusserow-Smidt agrees not to sue the district.

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She also will receive an early retirement package, which includes $35,000 paid towards health insurance.

“While I was planning to retire and end my teaching career at the conclusion of this school year, I am deeply saddened that end has come under these circumstances,” Kusserow-Smidt wrote in her resignation letter, which included an apology to board members, administrators, students and the communities of Forest City and Eagle Grove in north-central Iowa.

Forest City Superintendent Darwin Lehmann said the district is looking at new programs for Forest City teachers and employees to ensure a similar incident does not occur.

He said the district does not condone or tolerate the remarks Kusserow-Smidt made.

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