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Negotiations continue between Wokasch, Mingus
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the meeting, but because the board did not take action, the charges did not become part of the public record and could not be published, Horstman said after the meeting.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.”

William Holder, center, attorney for Mingus Union High School teacher Tom Wokasch who is under investigation from the Arizona Auditor General for mishandling MUHS wrestling team funds, right, talks with his client and his wife, Laura Wokasch, outside the school district meeting at MUHS on Thursday, May 13, following the board's executive session to discuss the process of handling the charges against Wokasch.

Tom Wokasch, a physical education teacher at Mingus Union High School who is under investigation by the Arizona Auditor General for mishandling wrestling team funds during his tenure as the team's head coach, listens as the Mingus Union High School Governing Board votes unanimously Thursday, May 13, to table the matter allowing for settlement talks between the district's and Wokasch's attorney to continue.

William Holder, the attorney representing Mingus Union High School teacher and former wrestling coach Tom Wokasch, speaks to the issues surrounding the accusations Wokasch mishandled team funds for years during the Mingus Union High School Governing Board meeting Thursday, May 13. Dozens of Wokasch supporters turned out for the meeting to express their faith in Wokasch's right to retain his teaching position at the local high school.

Klint McKean, an English teacher at Mingus Union High School and a fellow wrestling coach speaks to the character of former wrestling coach and physical education teacher Tom Wokasch while addressing the Mingus Union High School Governing Board during the public comment section of the meeting Thursday, May 13.

English department chairwoman Andrea Meyer tells the Mingus Union High School Governing Board that while she has not always seen eye-to-eye with physical education teacher Tom Wokasch on every issue, she has no doubts about the content of his character.

Tom Wokasch, center, and his wife, Laura Wokasch, consult with their attorney, William Holder, while the Mingus Union High School Governing Board confers in executive session during a meeting Thursday, May 13.


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