Nearly 100 students walked out of class Monday morning at Timpview High to show support for suspended football coach Louis Wong. They marched around the school grounds and chanted their support for Wong, who has been accused of mismanaging school funds.
Braydon Galland, a junior, joined in the protest even though students were warned they would get an unexcused absence and could not make up missed work.
District report on Timpview High School
"I personally care more about Coach Wong than half a geology class," said Galland, who plays on the varsity football team. "When you see someone you love who has helped you in so many positive ways, and you see [him] being treated poorly, it gets you really fired up."
Last week, Provo School District suspended Wong without pay following an investigation into financial practices at Timpview High. Wong was given 30 days to successfully appeal the suspension or be fired. His attorney, Elizabeth Dunning, said she plans to file a formal notice this week.
"Heâ€™s going to appeal because he really cares about the kids with whom he works," she said, noting that Wong teaches a class for at-risk kids in addition to working with athletes. "Lou Wong did not do anything intentionally wrongful with respect to any funds that he handled. To the extent anything inappropriate happened, it was a matter of inadvertence or not knowing or having available the proper procedure."
Last week, the state Board of Education released an audit of financial practices at Timpview that indicated Wong skirted district fiscal policies, used school funds for personal car repairs, and kept imprecise financial records.
Wong, who handled driverâ€™s education at Timpview, billed the school for $759.84 of personal car repairs and towing, including his own Mercedes and his sonâ€™s Volkswagen. He reimbursed the school for $254.90 but did not pay sales tax for any of the services, according to the audit. He also recorded collecting $28,506.60 in student activity fees but only deposited $13,056.48. Meanwhile, his deposits for summer camp were $13,315 more than what he recorded in his log.
Wong, who led Timpview to four consecutive football state championships in seven years as head coach, raised nearly $2 million to improve facilities at Timpview, including the football field and a new weight room, Dunning noted.
Dunning said the district did not have proper procedures in place for Wong to follow. As an example, she said the district faulted Wong for not depositing student fees he collected for summer programs within three days as required by state law. But during the summer, the state audit noted, there is no procedure in place for making deposits when school offices are often closed.
"How can you possibly blame him if thereâ€™s no procedure in place to do it?" Dunning asked.
Bob Gentry, Provo districtâ€™s interim superintendent, said the district will follow the reportâ€™s recommendation to ask for an independent audit of student activity funds throughout the district but he has no indication so far that there are problems at other Provo schools.
"Weâ€™re in the process of writing more specific procedures and some policies that will be coming to the board," he said.
Cindi Pearce, Timpview PTA president, said she thought the student demonstration Monday was a "respectful" and "civilized" way for kids to make their voices heard.
"Itâ€™s been very frustrating to both parents and kids not to have a forum to talk about these issues and have questions answered," she said.
Gentry said he encourages anyone with a comment or question to write to him at email@example.com . The school board has pledged to hold a public meeting to answer questions about district policies and procedures that are related to Wongâ€™s termination. But the district canâ€™t discuss the details of Wongâ€™s suspension or appeal, Gentry said. A date has not been scheduled for the meeting.
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