State law allows teachers with five years on the job and 10 years’ experience to take up to five years of unpaid leave if the school board approves it. For one former Minnesota teacher and athletic coach, that was a deal too good to pass up.
Phil Link had coached the Fergus Falls High School Otters baseball and football teams for many years before taking an approved leave of absence in 2008.
Instead of raising a family, trying a new career or backpacking the mountains like most leave-taking teachers do, Link took a series of teaching and coaching positions at other Minnesota schools. His first stop was the North Branch School District, where he taught and coached the football team. Then Link moved on to Chaska, where he landed a position as administrative dean and head football coach.
But the itinerant teacher’s trek came to an end when allegations surfaced that he stole from the Chaska sports programs. He pleaded guilty to multiple felonies and now must contemplate an even longer absence as he awaits sentencing.