Nampa High announced the hiring of boys basketball coach James Daye and girls soccer coach Evan Curry with a glowing press release June 23.
Five weeks later, the Nampa School District has stripped Daye and Curry of their coaching duties — prompting Nampa officials to question their own vetting process.
“We are looking carefully at our hiring process,” Nampa School District spokeswoman Kathleen Tuck said.
Daye, who said he has a career record of 309-78, faced an allegation of having an inappropriate relationship with a female student when he coached in South Carolina. He says he informed Nampa High about that allegation before coaching Nampa’s JV girls basketball team last school year.
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“It’s like murderers have probably had less scrutiny than I have over an unproven allegation,” Daye said.
District officials said they couldn’t confirm or deny if Nampa knew of the allegation.
Curry, who has coached soccer at high schools around the Treasure Valley, has twice been investigated for alleged ethics violations in the Boise School District. He was reprimanded for one violation, and the other was dismissed. Emails show that Nampa’s human resources department didn’t know about the reprimand.
Curry’s lawyer, Erik Strindberg of Strindberg and Scholnick, said Curry didn’t withhold any information. Curry wrote on his application that the state placed a restriction on his teaching license, Strindberg said. The restriction was part of the ruling on his 2017 ethics violation.
“He fully cooperated with the district,” Strindberg said.
The district hadn’t officially hired either coach, Tuck said, which allowed it to rescind their employment offers. Coaches don’t sign their contracts until the beginning of the school year. Any work in the summer is done essentially as a volunteer.
Nampa High Principal Diana Molino and Athletic Director Ty Thomas declined to speak with the Idaho Statesman in recent weeks about Daye or Curry, referring questions to the district office.
Nampa School District Superintendent Paula Kellerer declined to answer specific questions about Daye on Tuesday, citing personnel matters and advice from the district’s lawyers.
“We must respectfully decline responding to the other questions regarding Mr. Daye’s circumstance,” Kellerer wrote in an email to the Idaho Statesman. “There are a number of reasons why we cannot discuss this matter. However, suffice it to say that the issues involve confidential personnel matters, as well as district personnel decisions of a sensitive nature.”
She also declined to answer questions about Curry.
FOLLOWED BY ALLEGATIONS
Daye, 53, brought a long and successful coaching resume with him when he moved to Idaho in December 2015. He started coaching in 1986, won a North Carolina state title in 1988, led Buffalo’s McKinley High to six straight New York sectional finals and was an assistant coach for two seasons at a Division I program, Niagara University.
But the Idaho Statesman discovered a troubled past in a Google search when Nampa announced his hiring.
Daye confirmed to the Statesman that he left J.L. Mann Academy in Greenville, S.C., in 1991 after the school began investigating an allegation that he had an inappropriate relationship with a 17-year-old female student.
At the time, Daye was a 27-year-old boys basketball coach and English teacher at the public school.
Daye maintains the allegation is false. The school put him on leave, but he left J.L. Mann to manage a jazz club in North Carolina because of its higher salary, he said in an interview with the Idaho Statesman.
He never coached a game at the school.
Daye wasn’t charged with a crime stemming from the allegation at J.L. Mann Academy, so the incident wouldn’t have shown up in a criminal background check. The allegation came to light again March 9, 2008, when The Buffalo News published an account of the case.
Daye was the longtime boys basketball coach at Buffalo’s McKinley High when the newspaper published the story.
The New York State Education Department investigated. Before hearings could begin the following summer, Daye resigned from McKinley High and signed an agreement Aug. 7, 2009, that surrendered his teaching certificates and “permanently waives his right to apply for any New York State teaching, administrative or other school-related certification at any future date.”
The state canceled its hearings as part of the surrender agreement, which also specifies that New York would enter Daye’s surrender into a national database on the status of teaching certificates.
Daye said he signed the agreement because he and his wife spent $60,000 in legal fees in two years. They later divorced.
“We talked to two sets of lawyers, talked to the union lawyer, and they were like, ‘Just retire,’ ” Daye said. “ ‘You’re going to get your pension. Just resign and you’ll get your pension. Find something else to do or be a stay-at-home dad.’
“That’s what we chose to do, me and my ex-wife, collectively.”
Daye said he told Thomas, the Nampa athletic director, of the allegation before Nampa hired him as the JV girls basketball coach last season.
The district can’t confirm whether it knew of the allegation before hiring Daye because it is a personnel issue, Tuck said.
“We’re not going to be able to comment on that one way or another,” Tuck said. “It would be so much easier if we could tell you everything we know, but we can’t.”
Daye took over the boys basketball team June 1 for its summer program and applied for a physical education teaching position at Nampa High on June 22. The district did not hire him to teach.
Before coaching the Nampa JV girls team, Daye worked at Meridian’s Homecourt YMCA as a youth basketball coach and trainer from Dec. 14, 2015, to Nov. 8, 2016, said David Duro, the president and CEO of the Treasure Valley Family YMCA.
Daye said he told the YMCA about the allegation from South Carolina. Duro said the YMCA didn’t know about the allegation before hiring him, but he confirmed the organization investigated when it heard the story and that Daye continued to work at the YMCA until November 2016.
“I can tell you we were made aware of it, and we followed what we had in place at the time,” Duro said.
Daye hired the Huntley Law Firm on Tuesday after the Nampa district rescinded its offer.
“We could be wrong, but I believe a thorough investigation will demonstrate that there is no credible foundation for the allegations stemming from his time in South Carolina,” a letter signed by Daye’s lawyers, Bob Huntley and Mary Grant, states.
‘THE SOCCER COACH HAS A PAST?’
Curry, 28, led the Vallivue girls soccer program for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years. He also coached the JV girls soccer team at Borah High before returning to the Homedale School District, where he began his teaching career, last school year as a fifth-grade teacher and middle school athletic director.
He accepted an offer to teach fifth grade at Nampa’s Greenhurst Elementary on June 9, district emails show. Curry then interviewed for Nampa’s open girls soccer coaching position, and the school closed the position June 19.
But after Nampa published the June 23 press release detailing his hiring as a teacher and coach, Nampa received concerns from three different school districts — Boise, Homedale and an unnamed third district — according to a July 5 email from Rachelle Armstrong, the Nampa School District’s director of human resources.
Emails obtained by the Statesman don’t reveal what Nampa learned from the three districts.
“The soccer coach has a past? Why didn’t HR catch it?” Nampa Vice Principal Cortney Stauffer wrote in a June 26 email.
Another July 5 email from Armstrong stated that Curry told the Nampa School District of a 2015 investigation from Idaho’s teaching ethics body, the Professional Standards Commission. But Armstrong wrote, “He also had a 2017 PSC violation that was not disclosed.”
The 2017 investigation focused on a MacBook Pro laptop computer that Boise’s Liberty Elementary purchased for Curry’s classroom, according to a Professional Standards Commission ruling. That laptop went missing at the end of the 2015-16 school year after Liberty Elementary didn’t renew his contract for the 2016-17 school year.
The hearing panel noted that Liberty had “a haphazard inventory system for school property,” but it ruled that Curry “failed to exercise a high level of responsibility over (the MacBook Pro) at the end of the school year.”
The panel ordered a letter of reprimand and that Curry complete an ethics course.
WHO APPROVES NAMPA’S HIRES?
Idaho law requires anyone with unsupervised contact with students to pass state and FBI criminal background checks, as well as a search of the statewide sex-offender registry.
Daye passed Nampa’s background check before he started coaching the JV girls basketball team, Tuck said.
Curry hadn’t completed his background check, Tuck said. His teaching contract hadn’t gone before Nampa’s school board before the district rescinded its offer.
Nampa is one of the few school districts in the 5A and 4A Southern Idaho Conferences that doesn’t require school board approval of coaching contracts. The Nampa, Boise and Kuna school districts instead allow principals and athletic directors to make the final call on coaches who won’t teach in their districts.
Nampa Assistant Superintendent Gregg Russell emailed Armstrong, the director of human resources, on July 6 after the district rescinded Curry’s offer.
“I’m wondering if we need to reassess how we do reference checks, etc.,” Russell wrote. “Not sure if this could have been avoided, but things like this are good to just make sure our procedures are working to avoid situations like this in the future.”
Armstrong replied, “We absolutely do.”