By Mollie Rushmeyer, Correspondent
Every month new school staff is voted in at Royalton School Board meetings, others out and most pass by without much fanfare, but for Royalton residents, a 3-2 vote to approve Terry Gorecki as the 2017-2018 head wrestling coach was met with strong feelings on both sides.
It was a packed audience of community members at Monday’s meeting, most there to hear the decision regarding Gorecki.
Both Directors Dale Lenz and Jim Block voted against the approval of Gorecki as head wrestling coach, while Director Mark Petron abstained from voting.
Lenz said, “I just can’t support this.”
Block said, “I would’ve preferred starting over with our search for a coach.”
Directors Noel Guerard, Ellie Holm and Randy Hackett voted in favor.
This isn’t the first time Gorecki’s name has brought out controversy amongst district parents, staff and the Board. During his first stint as head wrestling coach in 2014, Gorecki had great support from parents and students alike, all with nothing but good things to say about his coaching style and relationship with his team.
But it didn’t take long for rocks to pop up in the road, leading to the eventual upheaval in the community just a year after his hiring. Investigations into the Royalton Wrestling Club and more specifically, into Gorecki and how he managed it, began after some discrepancies were found in how he had recorded coaching hours.
Allegations started coming forward about several issues: that Gorecki paid volunteer coaches, as well as wrestlers for work they did for the Royals Wrestling Club which violates the Club’s agreement with the district and the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) rules; Gorecki had inconsistencies in the coaching hours he recorded; with some later findings that volunteer coaches were working with athletes off-season, also against the rules.
While much of the specifics of an investigation, conducted by a third-party attorney, is not public information, some information can be gathered through the records of past Board meetings as well as a document formed after the controversy with Gorecki, called Resolution Regarding Royals Wrestling Club.
The document can be found here: https://v3.boardbook.org/Pub lic/PublicItemDownload.aspx?ik=37924622.
In it, the Royalton School District agrees to continue the relationship with the Royals Wrestling Club, provided it keeps a strict adherence to the district and MSHSL policies.
When all was said and done after these issues and others and the subsequent investigation, Gorecki’s contract as head wrestling coach was not renewed in 2016. An outcry from his many supporters in the community poured in through emails and phone calls to the Board, school staff and superintendent. A letter of support was presented at a Board meeting, signed by more than 100 people, ready to go to bat for Gorecki as the Board had the difficult job of deciding whether to keep Gorecki on or not. People wrote letters to the editor in the Morrison County Record to voice their opinions, many of them saddened that Gorecki — who they considered a great coach, great with the kids — was not allowed to continue in his position.
For a time, things became so heated at the standing-room-only Board meetings, a police officer was brought in to maintain order.
While Gorecki himself was not present for the vote Monday, many spectators at the meeting could be heard saying, “Yes!” when it passed.
Before voting, Guerard asked Director of Student Activities and Community Education Coordinator, Brent Leiser, Supt. John Phelps and Royalton MS-HS Principal, Joel Swenson if they would recommend hiring Gorecki back. All three said, “Yes.”
Leiser said, “The kids are in good hands. They’re safe. He’s not going to expect dramatic weight drops for weigh-ins. We’ve talked to him and he knows he has to follow all the district policies.”