Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools fumbled with the hiring of athletic director Tammie Romstad, who was part of a controversial, win-at-all-costs operation at Independence Community College.
Hiring the longtime athletic director of a Kansas junior college that is perhaps best known for its former football coach's offensive remark about Hitler is a questionable decision on its face. But the fact that Romstad still hasn't condemned Jason Brown or his comment — and won't even address the situation publicly — is all the more troubling.
Her track record raises serious concerns about whether Romstad will set the right priorities in hiring and managing coaches who should also be role models for their athletes.
For starters, Romstad owes the community an explanation of why she supported Brown, a coach who resigned under pressure in February after texting a student athlete from Germany: "I'm your new Hitler."
Romstad, a supporter of the volatile coach, has never publicly disavowed Brown's text. She did not return several phone calls from The Star seeking comment.
Romstad could have distanced herself from Brown and should have acknowledged that she was part of an administration that erred in hiring the coach, who starred in the last two seasons of Netflix's "Last Chance U."
But she appears to have few, if any, regrets about Brown's tenure.
For his part, Brown was defiant to the end — his resignation did not include an apology or admission of wrongdoing. Romstad, who is identified on "Last Chance U" as Tammie Geldenhuys, hasn't directly addressed the Hitler comment. But she has come to Brown's defense in general terms, noting that "he didn't survive and grow up by being politically correct."
What message does that send to the student athletes in Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools?
Superintendent Charles Foust said he has spoken about the hire with the district's human resources department, which is now led by former Independence Community College human resources director Keli Tuschman.
Foust wouldn't divulge the nature of those discussions, and Tuschman didn't respond to requests seeking comment.
Foust said of Romstad's support for Brown: "The press pressed her for comment, and she stayed in the middle of the street. She never states she supported (Brown's) comment.
"They wanted her to kowtow. Everyone wants (officials) to tell the truth, but the other person has a right, too," he said.
Yes, Brown has rights, too. But Romstad, who will be paid $102,000 a year in her new job, has a responsibility to draw a bright line here, condemn the Hitler comment and make clear that going forward, she won't turn a blind eye to inexcusable behavior with the hope of winning a few more games.
As Andy Taylor, editor of the Montgomery County, Kansas Chronicle told The Star, Romstad was part of a team that ran with the idea of turning "Last Chance U" and Jason Brown into a marketing tool to boost the school's profile.
That proved to be a dangerous strategy that brought national attention to Independence Community College for all the wrong reasons. If Romstad shows similarly poor judgment in her new job, Foust and other top school officials who signed off on this hire will share the blame.