|Written by Greg Ruland|
|Friday, 14 May 2010 11:03|
Charges against a popular Mingus Union High School teacher were not read aloud and further settlement talks were ordered by unanimous vote of the Mingus Union High School Governing Board Thursday, May 13.
Former MUHS wrestling coach Tom Wokasch, an MUHS physical education teacher, is under investigation by the Arizona Auditor General for allegedly mishandling money from wrestling events.
Wokasch and scores of the former coach’s supporters turned out in red MUHS wrestling team T-shirts for the meeting, where the findings of an investigation into Wokasch’s handling of gate receipts were expected to be released to the public.
Instead, action on the findings was tabled pending further negotiations between lawyers for Wokasch and the district.
MUHSD attorney Patrice Horstman told the board settlement negotiations were making progress.
“I am optimistic settlement can be reached without discipline being imposed,” Wokasch's attorney William Holder said after the meeting.
Copies of the written charges were made available to the media prior to the meeting, but because the board did not take action, the charges did not become part of the public record and could not be published, Horstman said after the meeting.
Holder took advantage of the public comment segment to lay out Wokasch’s defense to any charges the board might decide to approve.
Holder said Wokasch’s due process rights were violated when MUHSD Superintendent Tim Foist stated in comments to the media that Wokasch would not be invited back to teach in 2010, thereby implying he had already been fired.
Whatever misconduct Wokasch might be accused of took place in relation to his work as a coach, not as a teacher, Holder said. His resignation as coach of the wrestling team was enough of a consequence for his actions.
“He is fit to teach,” Holder said. “This has nothing to do with his teaching abilities.”
Even if he acted improperly, the money allegedly misdirected by Wokasch can be recovered. Recovery of the funds would be a better alternative than disciplinary action, Holder said.
Following Holder, several people spoke in favor Wokasch, including Klint McKean, an MUHS graduate who now teaches English at the school and wrestled for Wokasch.
“He is in all honesty one of the reasons I am a teacher and a coach,” McKean said.
Speaking for many in the audience, McKean said, his voice choking with emotion, “We are his family. I ask that you would return him to his family.”
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