New football coach punts before first down
Katt steps down citing family welfare worries, board quickly hires replacement
District officials are hoping this time around, their choice will help its football program quickly recover from the recent head coach hiring fumble.
The board ultimately voted 5-2 Wednesday to hire retired Flat Rock High School head football coach Joseph Pruchnicki as the new Rayder head football coach. Board members Glen Catt and Kevin Pearsall cast the dissenting votes.
School officials have been scrambling since Thursday, June 7, when Katt announced during a morning team weight training session that concerns over his families financial security had prompted him to walk away from the head coaching position and the high school English teaching position for which the board approved him on April 23.
In April, a search committee had recommended Katt for the coaching position from a field of about 20 applicants for the job. Although this would have been Katt's first head coaching position, he has a strong coaching pedigree from Lowell High School, one of the top football programs in the state in recent years. Katt, 37, has been Lowell's defensive coordinator since 1998. During his tenure with the Red Arrows, they have racked up a 147-25 record, three Division II state championships, two state runner-up finishes, six regional championships and nine district titles.
Katt also came highly recommended from Lowell High School officials as a teacher.
The day after the school board hired him, Katt told the Courier that his main motivation for seeking the Charlevoix position was his family.
Katt and his wife, Kylee, who is also a teacher, have four children, an 8-year-old daughter, a 7-year-old son, and twin 2-year-old boys.
Katt said Kylee works in a different district than he does, and their school-aged children attend school in a third district. The logistical whirlwind, he said, was creating a strain on the family.
Ultimately, it was the same concern for his family's well-being that Katt said prompted him to walk away from the Charlevoix positions.
In a statement emailed to the Charlevoix Courier Saturday, Katt wrote, "Nearly two months ago my family was given assurance that they would be taken care of, and just recently we were made aware that assurance no longer exists. This news is extremely disappointing because of the time devoted to Charlevoix student-athletes by the coaching staff, the personal sacrifices my family made, and the good faith proffered to Charlevoix Schools by my family the day this opportunity became available."
At Wednesday's meeting, board member Kevin Pearsall asked the committee and administrators, if Katt had been promised anything in terms of job security or a teaching job for his wife in discussions prior to the board approving his hiring.
High school principal Suzanne Klinger said that Katt had been promised a pay scale at "base 16" in deference to his years of teaching experience. (In most contracts, a first-year teacher starts a "Base 0" or Base 1" on the pay scale.) She said that Katt was also informed that there would likely be a few teaching positions becoming available at the elementary school and that, based on her background, his wife would be qualified for one of those positions and would therefore be welcome to apply, but she was not promised anything.
In the wake of Katt's announcement last week, Charlevoix High School Athletic Director Brian Certa re-convened the same committee that recommended Katt, to find his replacement.
Members of the selection committee include Certa; Tom Kernovic, retired athletic director from Ferris State University; Mark Snyder, former college football player, local real estate agent, member of the Rayder Gridiron Club and local youth coach; Scott Kelly, former varsity baseball coach, Charlevoix High School graduate and football player and executive director of BASES in Charlevoix; and Dr. Craig Boss, staff physician at Charlevoix Area Hospital, Charlevoix High School graduate and football player from Charlevoix's undefeated team of 1977.
Pruchnicki, Certa told the board Wednesday, was not among the group of candidates who applied for the position the first time around. In fact, he noted that all of the four candidates who were interviewed have all found new positions or are staying where they are. Instead Pruchnicki came to the committee's attention, as Certa put it, as "an answer to a prayer."
Certa explained that Pruchnicki had contacted him about a month ago inquiring about the coaching vacancy. He said when he told Pruchnicki that the position had already been filled, Pruchnicki had offered to volunteer in any coaching capacity that might help the program. Certa said when Katt bowed out, Pruchnicki's name came to the forefront.
In a story published May 15 on his retirement from teaching and coaching at Flat Rock, Pruchnicki, 65, told the Monroe Evening News that he planned to retire to his cabin southeast of Mancelona, but still wanted to stay involved in coaching football somewhere.