Lake Mills coach terminated from position

Published 7:46 am Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Lake Mills School Board voted unanimously to terminate the teaching and coaching contracts of Mark Van Gorkom on Tuesday.

He was an elementary school teacher and high school girls basketball coach.

Van Gorkom, in his seventh year as the head coach, allegedly sent inappropriate text messages to team members.

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“We are very proud of the students who came forward,” Lake Mills School Board President Debra Georgia said after the meeting. “We’re also proud of the adults who helped them through the difficult process.”

Georgia said that the community of Lake Mills was supportive in the whole process, which started in February.

“They made sure we paid attention to all the details that we needed to to make sure it was a fair and equitable decision regarding Mr. Van Gorkom’s contract,” she said.

Lake Mills investigates actions of girls’ basketball coach

The Lake Mills School Board met Tuesday night to vote on Superintendent Daryl Sherman’s recommendation to terminate Van Gorkom’s teaching and coaching contracts.

After the unanimous vote, Sherman spoke briefly to the school board and the 20 people in attendance.

“I want to commend the students who brought forth this matter to our attention,” he said. “I think that took some courage on their part so I commend them for telling an adult.

“I want to also thank the board for their time, energy and thoughtfulness that they gave to this difficult situation.”

Georgia said she would not comment on anything specific in the text messages to the students.

“The definition of inappropriate text messages nobody is going to take lightly,” she said. “People are going to scrutinize and we’re going to make sure they meet the letter of the law and what’s in the Iowa Code and what’s in our school policies.”

Van Gorkom was not at Tuesday’s meeting.

He issued the following statement to the Lake Mills Graphic in early February:

“Because of my job, my personal cell phone receives and sends group text messages to basketball team members,” he said. “Comments can include normal teenage banter. I occasionally participate in the interest of team camaraderie.

“In a moment of poor judgment, I responded to one such text message which when read out of context and in hindsight, could be misconstrued. There was certainly no intent to offend and I apologize for any offense caused. I have turned over my cell phone and computer hard drive to school officials to assure everyone that no inappropriate communication has occurred.”