Former Timpview High football coach Louis Wong could return to teaching and coaching in as soon as 18 months after resigning amid allegations of financial mismanagement.
The Utah State Board of Education voted on Friday to suspend Wong's teaching license for 18 months after hearing a recommendation from the Utah Professional Practices Advisory Commission that his license be suspended for one year. The recommendation followed a June hearing in which Wong answered questions that were raised by financial investigations by the Utah State Office of Education and the Provo District.
Wong was initially fired by the district, but agreed to drop his grievance against the Provo School District in exchange for being allowed to resign effective May 2012.
In Friday's board meeting, the case was discussed in executive session and then the vote was taken in the public portion of the meeting. There was a motion to suspend Wong's license for two years, but then board member Mark Openshaw made a substitute motion to follow UPPAC's recommendation and suspend the license for a year. Both of those motions failed in split votes.
The board was unanimous in the decision to suspend Wong's teaching license for 18 months, said Openshaw. Wong taught driver education at Timpview and coached the football team. Wong will be eligible to have his license reinstated on Feb. 7, 2014, and it will be the sole decision of the Utah State School Board, after a hearing and recommendation, to decide whether he's met their criteria and should be allowed to teach and coach again.
Among the conditions attached to reinstatement are taking a university-level accounting course, engaging in training in public school finances offered by the school district's business administrator, and articulating to hearing officers how public money should be handled.
Wong, who won four straight football championships and seven region titles in his seven years as head coach, was one of the state's most popular and successful coaches when questions about fundraising and the financial practices of the coach and the school's former administration arose during construction of a state-of-the-art weight room on Timpview High's campus last fall.
The questions prompted the investigations, which led to Wong being suspended pending termination on March 13. He consistently said he welcomed more oversight and that he did everything with the approval and knowledge of his administration. Wong did not respond to requests for an interview Monday.
All of the financial investigations found issues with Wong, including charging personal car repairs to the school account, failing to run background checks on all assistant coaches and improper reimbursement requests, but officials also blamed administrators and district officials for not enforcing rules, and in some cases, not having proper guidelines in place.
"I think it was a systems problem," said Openshaw, who nearly recused himself from the vote because his son played on the freshman and sophomore team under Wong. He decided to participate because he felt his constituents deserved representation on the issue.
"I don't think coach Wong was necessarily blameless, but had this been a business … this would have been a management issue."
Openshaw said "years of unchecked" problems were blamed on the coach, and the entire ordeal has "damaged the community."
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