Mohrhardt’s appeal denied by board

Cavin Mohrhardt didn't score at his appellate hearing before the Spring Lake school board Tuesday night. But as an athletic director, he knows it's not always about whether you win or lose.
Marie Havenga
Mar 8, 2012


Even though the board voted 7-0 to uphold a written reprimand for a comment Mohrhardt made to the parent of a Newaygo basketball player after a January contest between the Lakers and Lions, Mohrhardt said after the appeal that he got what he asked for — the chance to be heard.

“I was a little surprised by the board’s decision, but I got what I wanted,” said Mohrhardt, who filed a lawsuit against the board on Feb. 23 to request the appeal. “They made a decision, now it’s time to go back to work. I want to thank them for hearing me, which is all I really wanted.”

Mohrhardt admitted to Spring Lake High School Principal Mike Gilchrist that he told Newaygo parent Matthew Bradley, “I am not going to kiss your butt,” after Bradley continued to demand action for what he claimed to be harassing words from Spring Lake students. The athletic director said he was only trying to protect his students and objected to Gilchrist’s reprimand being part of his permanent file.

Mohrhardt’s request for a hearing before the school board was denied in a Feb. 21 letter from Superintendent Dennis Furton. The superintendent said it was Mohrhardt’s choice of words that warranted the written reprimand, and that the context or other details were irrelevant.

Witnesses to the Jan. 24 incident told the Tribune that Bradley appeared very agitated when he approached Mohrhardt after the game. They said the Spring Lake athletic director calmly talked with Bradley for close to 10 minutes.

“He was accusing our student section of harassing him,” said Len Grimmer, who said he was clock manager at the game, and about 3 feet from the discussion between Bradley and Mohrhardt. “The guy was very persistent and getting angrier. His face was getting red. He kept demanding something be done. Cavin said he would take care of it in the morning.

“The gentleman kept carrying on,” Grimmer continued. “Cavin said, ‘I’m not going to kiss your butt. I’ll deal with it in the morning.’”

Grimmer and two other witnesses said Mohrhardt was calm throughout the incident, and that they believe his “butt” comment gave closure to the conversation and diffused what they believe could have become a dangerous situation.

Rob Pennell was the public address announcer at the game and said he saw an angry Bradley talking to Mohrhardt.

“I think Cavin handled it in a very appropriate way,” Pennell said. “I think there was nothing he could say that could satisfy this gentleman. The (butt) comment, when seen within context, is not inappropriate at all. I thought it was incredibly inappropriate that discipline would be handed down.”

After Tuesday’s board decision that upheld the discipline, several audience members said they were in disbelief.

“The facts of the situation just don’t support that,” Pennell said. “... I’m trying to think of the message they’re trying to send the school system and, for the life of me, can’t figure it out. Don’t protect our kids? Don’t do what you think is right?”

Spring Lake Board of Education President Dina Horne commended Mohrhardt for protecting the students, but said his language was not acceptable, and that was the basis of the reprimand.

“I think a lot of people were disappointed with our decision, and I get that,” Horne said. “But there wasn’t enough new information to the story that would compel the board to overturn the decision that the principal and superintendent made.

“I definitely appreciate Mr. Mohrhardt’s intent to keep an upset individual away from students,” she continued. “That was good. But the matter came down to word choice. The word choice to diffuse the situation wasn’t appropriate. The word choice was what the reprimand was all about. We agreed with the decision Mr. Gilchrist and then Mr. Furton made.”

Furton said it is not a school board’s job to “micro-manage” district leaders.

“I believe given the situation, the board made the only decision it could,” said Furton, who was not in the room during deliberations. “... This was a difficult position for them to be put in, but I’m pleased that the board decided to give Mr. Mohrhardt an opportunity to have his side of the situation heard.”


Longtime Laker

DF: "I'm pleased that the board decided to give Mr. Mohrhardt an opportunity to have his side of the situation heard."
What? Seriously? That's gotta be another Tribune misquote. Then why did YOU issue a written reprimand without FIRST hearing his side of the story? Where's the loyalty and professionalism to a 30 year employee with a spotless record? Is that the kind of management style our board was looking for when they moved you here? How does that promote a sense of TEAM? Why did YOU initially send a letter denying Mr. Mohrhardt the chance for a hearing?
And the biggest question is what is the big deal about that guy's butt? This is incredulous to me that this is even being debated, let alone worthy of a written reprimand. I'm sorry but (oops, I said it!) this does not pass the smell test (pun intended). Sure looks like some sort of personal agendas are coming into play here.
Maybe this whole Buttgate fiasco will finally open the eyes to some school board members as well as voters in the Spring Lake School District. Every parent needs to take a few minutes and ask some questions to your child's teacher, the building principal, (you need not ask the custodians). You might be surprised what you discover.
For the sake of our kids, I hope so.


Keep in mind that people don't get written reprimands in their personnel files until they've already been given verbal warnings beforehand that they have failed to heed. Mohrhardt's record cannot be as spotless as he claims.


Calling Mark Westerburg. Can you please come back and take the job that we should have given to you or at least come back and show Mr. Furton how to do his job correctly. He is wrecking our school.


Post a Comment

Log in to your account to post comments here and on other stories, galleries and polls. Share your thoughts and reply to comments posted by others. Don't have an account on Create a new account today to get started.