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Ex-swim coach says Wiregrass Ranch owes her for hoodies

WESLEY CHAPEL — A former Wiregrass Ranch High School girls swimming coach is threatening to sue the school booster club over $754 in hooded sweat shirts.

Leah Zachewicz, who was placed on unpaid leave this fall after she was charged with speeding and driving students without an active license, bought the hoodies with her credit card. She says school officials took the sweat shirts from her without paying for them, and she can't afford the charge.

She accused the booster club of selling the sweat shirts and keeping the profit.

"That's a huge amount of money," said Zachewicz, who's dealing with legal matters relating to the driving incident and an unrelated DUI. "For them to just take the merchandise and not reimburse me at all is not right."

In e-mails and voice messages, Zachewicz has demanded her money back and has said that if she does not get it, she and her lawyer "will be moving forward to take action to get this money."

Booster club president Chris Kluender said the demands surprised him. He said Zachewicz bought the sweat shirts without getting written approval.

"She was trying to do a fundraiser for her swim team that she got no authorization for," Kluender said. "If a coach is going to put it on their own personal credit card, they have to put it on paper through the school. … We don't have anything from her."

Even so, he said, the club is working with boys coach Tanner Schmitz to help Zachewicz recoup some of her money.

Zachewicz said Schmitz recommended she buy the sweat shirts and then seek repayment from the booster club.

"I was told I would be completely reimbursed," she said.

Schmitz said he had talked in general terms with Zachewicz about buying the sweat shirts but that he had "no idea what she was doing" until she returned with the hoodies and her receipt.

"There's definitely procedures that you go through," he said. "Any time you're going to make a purchase, there's purchase orders and purchase requests you have to fill out. …She didn't do any of it."

He added that the sweat shirts feature the wrong bulls logo, which makes them less desirable to students.

Still, Schmitz keeps the hoodies in his classroom and is selling them for $15 each. Less than half have sold, he said, although some students have bought them to help out Zachewicz.

"I hate to see her suffer for following the wrong procedures," he said.

Kluender said he has received about $175 from Schmitz so far, and he's waiting until after the holidays to see how much more comes in through the sales.

"She will be given a check, along with the rest of the sweat shirts," Kluender said. "We're trying to do the best we can for her under this unfortunate circumstance."

Zachewicz said she has been trying to right her life after the DUI arrest and the speeding and unauthorized transporting of students charges. Getting the hoodie expense cleared up will help her move forward, she said.

"I'm not trying to be vindictive," she said. "But at the end of the day, it's right or wrong."

She said she hoped to return to Wiregrass Ranch after her legal matters are concluded. Principal Ray Bonti said he could not comment on whether she would be able to come back to the school.

Zachewicz has been a Pasco County English teacher since 2007. She joined the Wiregrass Ranch staff in 2008.

Times staff writer Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at www.tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.

Ex-swim coach says Wiregrass Ranch owes her for hoodies 12/10/10 [Last modified: Friday, December 10, 2010 9:06pm]
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