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Wayland investigating sports programs after allegations by athletic director

WAYLAND — School officials said Wednesday they will seek outside assistance as they investigate allegations by Wayland High School’s athletic director that the sports department is rife with problems ranging from misused funds to discriminatory practices against girls’ teams.

Stephen Cass, who became athletic director in the summer of 2013, outlined his complaints in a May 19 letter to the School Committee after he was informed that his contract would not be renewed for next year.

Cass contends he is being removed in retaliation for his efforts to improve practices within the athletic department and for complaining to the superintendent.

“Internally we haven’t been able to resolve issues brought up in the past, so we must ask for outside agencies with investigative powers,” said School Committee member Donna Bouchard.

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The board voted Wednesday to continue its own investigation as well as enlisting state and federal agencies such as the state Office of the Inspector General, the State Ethics Commission, and the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

Cass will not be offered a new contract after his current one expires June 30, Assistant Superintendent Brad Crozier confirmed after the meeting. The position will be posted this week, Crozier said, and the administration will accept resumes in search of a replacement.

More than 30 people gathered inside the Wayland Town Building as the School Committee discussed how it would address Cass’s allegations.

In his May 19 letter, Cass said he had been hired to fix a “longstanding fiscal problem” within the athletic department and quickly took steps to cut spending by $100,000. “Most coaches or parents did not notice a thing,” he wrote, “but three coaches who had been accustomed to preferential treatment resisted measures to promote fiscal responsibility and gender equity throughout the athletic department.”

Cass contended he found “many disturbing practices,” including misused funds, coaches being paid under the table, inadequate background checks for coaches, and lopsided funding favoring boys’ teams in violation of Title IX, a civil rights law prohibiting gender discrimination in schools. Cass declined to identify the coaches allegedly involved.

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“Anything that he has raised is going to be fully addressed if it is uncovered by the agencies,” said School Superintendent Paul Stein.

No one brought up Cass’s dismissal at the meeting Wednesday, but several parents expressed a lack of confidence in an investigation solely led by the administration.

“I’m happy that they’re turning it over [to state authorities],” said Linda Shinomoto, a Wayland parent and Title IX officer. “I’m not confident that the administration has Title IX expertise.”

In an interview after the meeting, Cass said he is “very pleased” the School Committee is taking his concerns seriously. He said he had continuously brought up these issues to administrators for the past eight months.

“At some point I wanted someone to say, ‘Let’s deal with it,’ ” Cass said. “Just hold those three coaches accountable, and the problems go away. But unfortunately, they’ve decided I go away.”

Cass said he believes the decision May 8 not to renew his contract stems from an e-mail he sent three days earlier expressing his concerns to the superintendent. However, Crozier said Cass’s dismissal stemmed from his poor evaluations.

In an April 15 performance review, Wayland High principal Allyson Mizoguchi said Cass “does not get along with coaches,” “does not support the teams,” and “has a ‘top-down’ approach to decision-making,” according to excerpts cited in his May 19 letter.

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Mizoguchi did not return calls for comment.

“I feel powerless with no one behind me,” Cass said. “I don’t want to incriminate anybody; I just want to resolve some problems. I did not expect to lose my job over it.”

Some coaches support him, however.

“I think Stephen has done a wonderful job as athletic director,” said Shawn Powers, the high school boys’ tennis coach. “His presence has improved the athletic department — he has supported our team as well or better than his predecessors.”

Cass said that he tried to place more controls on team fund-raising, and pushed for every team to get equal funding, regardless of gender. He said he also implemented greater controls over donations, fees, and expenditures.

“When I first got here, the [fiscal situation] was all messed up,” Cass said. “There were parents complaining what happened to their money.”

Laura Malnight, a Wayland resident with five children, said many parents support Cass, but they are too “leery about the situation” to speak out, afraid to defend him for fear of making their children’s lives difficult.


Rosa Nguyen can be reached at rosa.nguyen@globe.com.