FOREST CITY | The Forest City School Board has approved a resignation agreement for a teacher who made racist comments about Eagle Grove's basketball team while working as a radio producer.
The agreement was unanimously approved for third-grade teacher Holly Jane Kusserow-Smidt during a special meeting Friday. She worked for the district for 43 years.
"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 dated Dec. 7, which included an apology to board members, administrators and students and communities of Forest City and Eagle Grove.
"The comments I made were inappropriate and not a true reflection of who I am I or what I believe," Kusserow-Smidt wrote. "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."
Kusserow-Smidt did not attend the meeting. No one answered the door when a Globe Gazette reporter knocked on the front door of a Forest City property in her name Friday afternoon.
She did not respond to a phone message from the Globe Gazette seeking comment Friday afternoon.
Forest City Superintendent Darwin Lehmann said district officials first found out details about Kusserow-Smidt’s resignation letter and agreement on Thursday, which led to Friday’s meeting.
Kusserow-Smidt and longtime sports announcer Orrin Harris, who worked for Forest City-based radio station KIOW, could be heard on a Nov. 28 streaming service commenting about multiple players on the Eagle Grove basketball team, seemingly mocking their Latino names. The comments were not broadcast on KIOW.
Both were fired from the station.
Lehmann emphasized that the district does not condone or tolerate the remarks she made, and that he reached out to KIOW and Eagle Grove school district officials following last Tuesday night’s game.
Lehmann added that the district has a legal responsibility when it comes to teachers resigning and similar issues — hence why it took over a week for Kusserow-Smidt to resign.
“It’s called due process,” he said of the time between the basketball game and Friday’s meeting. “We have a legal responsibility to follow through with the due process piece, and some people will accept that, some people will not. I can’t control that, but as you lead an organization, you have a legal responsibility to handle the due process piece in the right steps.”
The resignation agreement states Kusserow-Smidt will receive full contracted salary for the 2017-18 school year through Feb. 23, 2018, and benefits through Aug. 31, 2018.
Kusserow-Smidt’s salary is $69,792. She will receive about $20,400 in wages and benefits through February, according to Lehmann.
In return, Kusserow-Smidt agrees not to sue the district. She qualifies for and will receive an early retirement package, which is $35,000 paid towards health insurance.
Lehmann said the district is currently looking at implementing new programs for Forest City teachers and employees to ensure a similar incident does not occur.
“We are in a plan that we will provide some diversity training for some staff here when we get back from Christmas,” he said. “And we are looking at a plan where we have some diversity training on an annual basis.”