The Fremont Public Schools district was given a reprimand and issued a $1,600 fine by the Nebraska School Activities Association (NSAA) as punishment for 11 coaches at Fremont High School not being properly licensed under state law.
In a letter to the district dated June 22, NSAA Executive Director Jay Bellar thanked the district for self-reporting the violations and quickly moving to rectify the problems with a pro-active game plan.
“This is to inform you that due to a self-reported violation of NSAA Bylaw 2.12, Coaches (and) Sponsors, eleven coaches at Fremont High School did not have the proper coaching certification,” Bellar stated in the letter.
“Fremont High School will be assessed $100 per coach for incomplete coaches’ certification and $500 for lack of administrative oversight, also be asked to provide an action plan — which has been completed and accepted by the NSAA — and given a private reprimand,” Bellar wrote in the letter. “The NSAA appreciates Fremont High School’s approach to remedying this situation. Any additional violations of NSAA Bylaws could result in further sanctions.”
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The reprimand and fine came after a several-month investigation by both the FPS administration and NSAA staff into claims made by a whistleblower within the school district who had alleged in a tip to the Tribune that many coaches did not have the required state licenses needed for their jobs.
In a press release, FPS Superintendent Mark Shepard explained the controversy and how the district responded quickly, including self-reporting the situation to the NSAA.
“FPS reported to the NSAA earlier this spring that several part-time coaches had not acquired their coaching certification as required by NSAA By-Laws. The coaching certificate enables individuals who are not certificated teachers to coach athletic teams in a head coaching or assistant capacity,” Shepard stated in an email. “The certification process includes completing a background check, filling out an online application and completing two online courses.”
Shepard reiterated, as he did when the investigation was initiated, that all school employees and coaches had cleared other background checks and had passed. He also explained in the press release that numerous coaches were, “in the process of completing the courses when the information was brought to the attention of the school district, (while) others had not started the process.”
Once district officials began to probe the claims, the FPS administration devised an action plan to prevent any issues with coaching certifications in the future. Because of that action plan, the NSAA did not implement a more severe punishment.
The coaches as of early May — per FPS officials — who were without a valid NSAA or Nebraska Department of Education coaching or special certifications are listed below by sport and title:
Boys Soccer: Head coach Jeremy Tosaya and two of three assistant coaches, Mark Ostranski and Jose Lango, had no certificate on file. One assistant coach did have the required certification.
Girls Soccer: One of the two co-head coaches, Chad Manning, did not have a certificate on file and his teaching credential had also expired. Two assistant coaches did not have the required certification on file, Madison Manning and Dillon Rector.
Girls Tennis: Two assistant coaches did not have proper certification on file, Lexi Glosser and Carly Gross. Gross also assists with boys tennis.
Boys Tennis: One assistant coach, Carly Gross, did not have the proper certification on file.
Wrestling: One assistant coach, Remington Gay, did not have the proper certification on file.
Swimming: One assistant coach, James Pelikan, did not have the proper certification on file.
Debate: The head coach, Kristen Widman, did not have the proper certification on file.
Two coaches who had their certification in the “pending status” were deemed to not violate NSAA regulations and the district was hence not fined for either of those coaches.
The two coaches who were not part of the penalty were: Boys Track and Field assistant coach, Jennifer Bozarth, who had her certification pending, and Boys and Girls Bowling Head coach Mark McKenzie, whose certification was also considered “pending.”
Bozarth and McKenzie’s certifications had been filed but not finalized, hence the non-punishment.
Shepard stressed that despite the required NSAA background check not being completed, the district does its own background checks and all coaches had cleared a background check prior to hiring.
“All FPS employees complete a background check prior to being hired. Like many school districts, Fremont High School relies on community-based coaches,” Shepard stated in the press release. “We are blessed to have individuals who are willing to help. In the future, we have to do a better job of preparing them to serve our student athletes, taking the courses and acquiring certification is part of the process.”
The FHS Activities department will pay the fine utilizing revenue gained from hosting NSAA District competitions.”