A Hastings High School assistant principal and wrestling coach will be demoted — and face a criminal investigation — after he allegedly spent thousands of dollars meant for the school’s wrestling team on out-of-state trips to college football games.
Hastings school district officials say Josh McLay, who has served as the school’s wrestling coach since 2010, spent more than $11,000 on travel expenses and tickets to NCAA Division I football games in locations ranging from Florida to Nebraska. The unauthorized spending allegedly went on for seven years, but the district didn’t discover it until this fall, when McLay submitted a purchase order for 10 tickets to a Notre Dame-Florida State game in Indiana.
School board Chair Lisa Hedin said the district’s business office flagged the expense — and then began digging further into McLay’s earlier uses of school money. The audit uncovered a pattern: Each year, McLay filed expenses for out-of-state trips, labeled them as wrestling events, but actually attended football games.
“While the purchase orders said ‘wrestling clinic,’ there was not a clinic,” Hedin said.
The money McLay used was from a fund made up of donations from individual people and businesses for the wrestling team. Under the district’s policies, that money can be used for equipment, training, events and travel expenses, but only those related to the wrestling team.
Hedin said McLay asked the district about using the money for football tickets shortly after he was hired. He was told no, and he didn’t buy tickets then — but he did use school money for a trip to Nebraska, attended a football game, and claimed the expense as a wrestling clinic.
After the district completed its investigation, officials negotiated an agreement with McLay and his attorney. The deal approved by the school board this week requires McLay to step down from his coaching duties at the end of the wrestling season in March, and from his assistant principal job in June. He’ll be allowed to work for the district as a teacher in the 2019-20 school year.
In addition, McLay, who could not be reached for comment Friday, will have to reimburse the district for the approximately $11,200 officials say he misspent and serve a 10-day, unpaid suspension from work. Hedin said that will happen after the end of the wrestling season.
School officials have referred the matter to the Hastings Police Department for investigation. The department said Police Chief Bryan Schafer was unavailable for comment Friday.
McLay is a 2000 graduate and a former wrestling standout at Hastings High and at the University of Minnesota. Hedin said the situation involving McLay has been challenging for everyone involved. She said the board decided to let him stay with the district in part as a recognition of his positive work with the district.
“We have no doubt Mr. McLay has a strong connection with kids [or of] his ability to be supportive with kids and his competence in the classroom,” she said. “And also in our classrooms, we don’t judge kids on one mistake or one series of bad choices; we want to give opportunities for redemption.”