The teaching license of Louis Wong, a Timpview High School football coach who resigned this year in the wake of allegations of fiscal irresponsibility and policy violations, will be suspended for 18 months, the state school board decided Friday afternoon.
The decision came after several votes showed board members held differing opinions about the seriousness of Wong’s actions.
“It was a compromise,” said board chairwoman Debra Roberts of the 18-month term. “Some wanted a longer period, and some wanted a lesser period.”
First, board members suggested suspending his license for two years. Board member C. Mark Openshaw then suggested it be suspended for one year, as was recommended by the Utah Professional Practices Advisory Commission (UPPAC), the body that weighs evidence in such cases.
But Openshaw’s motion failed, as did an original motion for a two-year suspension. A third motion to suspend for 18 months passed unanimously.
UPPAC determined, among other things, that Wong bought food for himself while shopping for Timpview supplies, something Wong said he thought he was allowed to do because he was shopping during his lunch hour.
It also found Wong charged repairs to his personal vehicle to Timpview on multiple occasions, some of which he repaid and some of which he didn’t until a complaint was filed against him. He told the commission that was an error or oversight on his part.
Wong also testified to the commission that he mistakenly requested from Timpview reimbursement of airfare for his wife and children, who accompanied him on a trip to Florida for a high school football tournament. Commission members noted they believed Wong’s explanation but were concerned about the mixing of personal and school expenses.
Attempts to reach Wong were not immediately successful Friday evening.
Openshaw acknowledged Friday that one of his children played on Wong’s team last school year and the previous year. He said he decided to include himself in the vote after “long and hard” consideration. “I wanted to make sure that my constituents were represented and that really all sides of the story were heard.”
He said he suggested the shorter suspension because he felt Wong wasn’t the only one to blame for the problems, and he felt it would help bring closure.
“I think there’s plenty of blame to go around in this case from the district down to the school level,” Openshaw said, saying he doesn’t necessarily think Wong is blameless. “Unfortunately, coach Wong was the last man standing as I see it.”
Wong will be eligible to apply for reinstatement of his license in 18 months if he meets certain conditions. Those conditions include completion of a university-level course on proper accounting procedures for public schools; training on the specifics of public school finance provided by a school district business administrator; and being prepared to tell a hearing panel that he has an increased understanding of public school finances, specifically the need to separate personal and school funds and properly account for public funds and resources in his care.
The Provo School District fired Wong after an audit turned up the improprieties. But after he appealed, the district announced a settlement in which he was allowed to resign from his teaching position and his contract was paid out through May 25.
Wong once was considered one of the state’s top high school coaches, having won four straight championships with Timpview from 2006 to 2009.