District Vice President John Tran (far left) urging board to reinstate Mike Gorball
By Aram Tolegian
SOUTH EL MONTE — The community spoke and the El Monte Union High School District listened.
After an outpouring of support from current and former players, and area coaches, at Wednesday’s school board meeting, Arroyo High School girls basketball coach Mike Gorball has been reinstated by the district effective immediately.
Gorball was fired last week by first-year Arroyo principal Oscar Cisneros after 21 seasons. Gorball’s teams have won eight league championships, finished second nine times and made the playoffs in 20 of his 21 seasons.
“I’ll be happy to go to practice tomorrow and I think they (the players) will be, too,” said Gorball, who did not attend Wednesday’s meeting. “I know what the kids on my team have done to contact all my coaching friends and former players and it’s unbelievable that they can drum up that kind of support in such a short amount of time.
“I cannot even express (how moved I am). I told them I will never be able to thank them enough.”
The public comments portion of Wednesday’s meeting was overrun with Gorball supporters, which included Bishop Amat girls basketball coach Richard Wiard and South El Monte girls basketball and softball coach Dean Bunting.
With emotions ranging from tears to anger, speaker after speaker questioned Cisneros’ decision and the impact it will have on the Arroyo athletics program where Gorball is also an assistant football coach and supports several other sports.
After the comments portion of the meeting expired, district Vice President John Tran moved to immediately reinstate Gorball, which was met with loud applause from the packed chamber.
“I think the decision made to let Coach Gorball go was probably not the right move,” Tran said. “Any decision that will be made on Coach Gorball in the future will come back to the board. As of right now, the board couldn’t act on this because it wasn’t on the agenda. But under educational code we were able to give direction to the superintendent (Nick Salerno) and it was a unanimous decision to reinstate Coach Gorball.”
Cisneros declined to comment on why he fired Gorball, but many people attending the meeting believed it was because Cisneros wanted to hire a certified teacher for the position. Gorball works at the high school as a campus security officer.
“I made my decision tonight based on the fact that I don’t think he (Gorball) got a fair shake,” board member Carlos G. Salcedo said. “In certain circumstances it is beneficial to have the coaches be teachers because those teachers are there full time and they do get to know the students on a deeper level.
“However, I think there are some exceptions. For example, our coach in this instance, Gorball, he’s already here as a campus supervisor. In his role, he does have the opportunity to get to know these kids.”
Cisneros attended Thursday’s meeting and showed little emotion as students, parents and community members publicly questioned his decision and urged board members to change it.
“It’s not personal,” Cisneros said during a break in the meeting. “The board decides the direction it wants to take and that’s the direction it wants to take.”
No successor for Gorball had been named prior to Wednesday’s meeting. The Knights begin their summer tournament schedule on Friday. But with Gorball back at the helm, fears by parents about a team playing games with no coach were calmed, although Cisneros said the team would have a had a replacement in time for Friday’s game.
“I don’t think the timing was great given that they have a tournament coming up,” Tran said. “I just wanted to make sure we had immediate action to reinstate to give him time to prepare his team for the upcoming tournaments.”
Arroyo principal Oscar Cisneros (right) looks on during Wednesday’s meeting