Washington's Lombardi, Plagman Being Investigated By State

By Jeff Johnson, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS — The parent of a former Cedar Rapids Washington athlete said Wednesday she has filed a formal complaint to the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners, which is conducting an investigation into allegations of bullying of students by Washington football and baseball coach Tony Lombardi.

Washington Principal Ralph Plagman said Wednesday that Lombardi remains the coach of both sports, but multiple sources told The Gazette his coaching career at Washington is likely over, possibly as soon as Thursday.

Kathi Jensen said she filed the complaint last June and that the ongoing investigation includes Plagman for not properly handling parent complaints and concerns regarding Lombardi, who has been at Washington since 2006.

Plagman, the principal at Washington since 1981, would not comment on the investigation.

"I am not going to comment on a confidential process," he said.

Lombardi texted to The Gazette Wednesday night: "That's (confidential) information ... I have nothing to say about that."

Lombardi, 51, kept his coaching and teaching jobs after the completion of an investigation last spring by the Cedar Rapids Community School District following a formal complaint filed by Washington parents. The coach was suspended for Washington's final football game last fall after a verbal incident with an opposing player following a game against Cedar Rapids Prairie.

Jensen's son graduated from Washington in 2010 and was among those involved in an incident with Lombardi in the spring of 2010, she claimed, in which he and another soccer player were verbally assaulted by the coach in the school's gymnasium. That is the genesis of her formal complaint, she said.

She said she was asked by other Washington parents to file the complaint, and she is going public with the allegations to support those parents who cannot do so for fear of retaliation against their children.

"I am representing them," she said. "This is not about me or my son. This is about me trying to protect Washington kids from a very harassing coach."

Lombardi is not without his supporters at the school.

"If true (that his Washington career is over), it's a shame. He is a positive force inside Washington, a family man, a throwback," said Chuck Blades, whose son, Mitch, was Washington's starting quarterback this past season.

"The kids like him for the most part. Tons of parents support him, too."

Cedar Rapids City Council member Chuck Swore expressed his concerns about Lombardi to The Gazette late last week and provided documents that listed specific complaints against the coach that allegedly went forward to the Cedar Rapids Community School District in its investigation last spring. The complaints included numerous instances of verbal abuse against football players, students and even other coaches and staff at Washington.

Lombardi – whose football record at Washington is 51-25 in seven seasons and 13-26 in one baseball season — has coached football at the prep, collegiate and professional levels, with his previous tenure at Hinsdale (Ill.) Central ending acrimoniously.

He was let go after a highly successful three-year run at the school due to using "harsh language" in front of players and assistant coaches and for not substituing more reserve players in games.

Lombardi sued the school for breach of contract and was awarded $10,000 in an out-of-court settlement in 2007.

At the time he was hired at Washington, Plagman said the coach's dismissal at Hinsdale Central was "immense good fortune for Washington High School."

Lombardi's wife, Kari, is Washington's head volleyball coach.
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