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School Board fires East Ridge wrestling coach

Kelly Rogotzke hugs former East Ridge Raptors wrestling coach Matt Everson after the District 833 School Board voted not to renew his contract. Rogotzke's sons Roman and Ryder are on the varsity team. William Loeffler / RiverTown Multimedia

Matt Everson, who led the East Ridge Raptors wrestling team to a section title and its first ever state appearance last year, is out as varsity head coach.

The District 833 School Board voted unanimously at its April 25 meeting to approve a resolution of nonrenewal of Everson's coaching contract.

School district attorney Mick Waldspurger listed eight reasons for the decision. They included insubordination, possible recruiting violations, ignoring the chain of command and unprofessional conduct. Among them:

• Insubordination for failure to follow an order from East Ridge Activities Director Sara Palodichuk not to contact a family that was seeking residency in the district.

• Persuading a parent of a student to move into the East Ridge High School boundaries and promising that their child would be eligible to wrestle at the school.

"When the parent was later informed that the child was not eligible, the parent was understandably pretty upset," Waldspurger said.

After the parent filed a complaint and shared voicemails and text messages confirming the offer, Waldspurger said, Everson "attempted to retaliate against the family by seeking to have another child removed from a different wrestling program."

• Continuing to pursue a cooperative sponsorship arrangement with a private school that would boost the number of athletes on the team, despite a written notice from the activities director to stop. Everson, who was present at the meeting, later identified the school as New Life Academy in Woodbury.

Waldspurger cited Minnesota Statutes section 122A.33, subdivision 2, which states that "a person employed as a head varsity coach has an annual contract as a coach that the school board may or may not renew as the board sees fit."

The district issued a written reprimand to Everson at a discipline meeting Dec. 7. School Board member Heather Hirsch asked why it took until now to take action. Palodichuk said the East Ridge administration did not want to disrupt the wrestling team's season.

"We thought if we moved forward with non renewal at that time, as the season was getting started, that would not be best for the kids," Palodichuk said.

School Board member Ron Kath said he supported the decision.

"You don't win at all costs," he said. "You do it the right way."

After the board voted, Everson commiserated with wrestlers and their parents who had attended the meeting as a show of support.

"In the end I wasn't trying to hide anything," he said. "I was just trying to ... do what's right for these kids."

He agreed that he and Palodichuk clashed.

"Those frustrations did cause acts that might be seen as insubordination," he said. "But I went up the chain of command."

Kelly Rogotzke, whose sons Roman and Ryder wrestle with the Raptors varsity team, said they were told nothing about the allegations before the meeting.

"We're disappointed in the decision-making process," she said. "This isn't about the firing of a head coach. It's about removing the heart of the program."

Her two daughters also participate in youth wrestling programs. They were looking forward to wrestling under Everson.

"Now they'll never have the opportunity," Rogotzke said.

School Board members Sharon Van Leer and Michelle Witte were absent.

District 833 director of communications Shelly Schafer declined comment. Everson has the right to respond to the decision at a future meeting but cannot challenge it.

William Loeffler

William Loeffler is a playwright and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked 15 years writing features for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has also written travel stories based on his trips to all seven continents. He and his wife, Michelle, ran the Boston Marathon in 2009. 

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