Ken Hovet refinanced his house because his family needed the cash. He applied for a few jobs, without success. He was ashamed just going to the grocery store, but staying home -- and explaining things to his three kids, ages 4 to 10 -- well, that was embarrassing, too. He and his wife talked about moving before deciding that was not the answer, either.
But after the Howard County Board of Education last week decided Hovet should be reinstated, the former Oakland Mills High School football coach and athletic director is ready to start anew. In an interview last week, he discussed the difficulties he faced during the past year and the challenges that lie ahead. He had been placed on administrative leave in connection with a grade of a football player being improperly changed so the player would be eligible for the team.
Hovet's civil suit against the school system's superintendent's office is going to mediation. On Monday, he accepted a position teaching social studies at River Hill High School. And he said he is in talks to work this season as an assistant football coach at a school outside Howard County.
"It makes you feel funny, that's for sure," Hovet said. "I've been doing the same thing for the last 12 years. It will be a change."
It will not be easy for Hovet to move past an ordeal that lasted from November until earlier this month. Even in a new school, Hovet expects that on the first day of class, some of the students will want to hear their new teacher's version of events. Their parents might be curious, too. Hovet, 43, expects this and said that avoiding the topic is not the answer.
Hovet, School Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin and others thought one thing that might make it easier is Hovet not returning to Oakland Mills, where he coached football the past 21 years and taught for 13 years. Although the school has hired Dick Hendershott to be its football coach and athletic director -- jobs previously held by Hovet until he was placed on leave by then-Superintendent John O'Rourke -- Cousin offered Hovet the opportunity to return to the school as a teacher and football coach.
Hovet, Cousin and others agreed that taking the offer would not be a good move. Hovet's removal from the school had created an uproar in the community and among the school's coaches. With a new staff in place and practice starting Saturday, Hovet knew he had to leave.
"It brought tears to my eyes because my heart has been with Oakland Mills and will always be," said Hovet. A 1979 graduate of the Columbia school, he has not coached or taught anywhere else.
Hovet said he wants to be a head coach again, which could happen next school year. Though Cousin has not made an offer, he and Hovet have discussed the potential for Hovet to be the athletic director and football coach at a new high school scheduled to open in the northern part of the county next fall.
"Hopefully that will be an opportunity," Hovet said.
Having choices and opportunities is a different feeling for someone who had almost none for the past nine months. Since a two-month investigation that ended in February, Hovet had been on administrative leave -- first paid and then unpaid. He applied to be a substitute teacher in Montgomery County only to be rejected because he was still under contract to Howard County. He sent resumes to law firms in hopes of resurrecting the career he had given up to become a teacher but never heard back.
Once on unpaid leave, he filed for unemployment but said the superintendent's office contested his application, only not to show for a hearing. Hovet then began receiving unemployment after the April hearing. A spokesman for Cousin said the superintendent was unaware Hovet had filed for unemployment until after the hearing and was unsure why the school system had contested it in the first place.
Hovet and his wife, Maria, talked about moving and whether relocating would give him a fresh start in a community, regardless of the outcome of his appeal.
"Why should I have to move?" Hovet said. "I've lived in Howard County my whole life. . . . This is my home. And I'm not going to be chased out of it by some allegations from someone who is no longer here.
"I need to ensure that the public knows what has happened here, and I'm not running away from this. I'm staying in this community because this is where I live, this is my home. I live in Howard County, and I'm not leaving."