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In an unprecedented move, new South River principal Dr. Edward Hamilton has put all but five Seahawk head coaching positions up for grabs.
Football, boys soccer, boys lacrosse, tennis and golf will be coached by the current coaches for one more year, and then, those positions, too, will be put on the block.
"The idea is to have allof our head coaches reinterviewed so as to end up with the best coaches at each position, and if I remain as athletic director, I would have all of my selections as head coaches," said Jim Haluck, who is completing his second year as athletic director. He said his job also will be evaluated after this year.
"I don't really know where I stand one way or the other either, but I do know that Dr. Hamilton is a firm supporter of athletics and wants to see some changes."
Halucksaid he and the new principal have been getting pressure from the parents to make changes, but he doesn't rule out many of the same head coaches returning.
"We have a good staff, but we have gotten pressure to make changes," said Haluck, who doubles as chairman of the science department.
"Some parents have complained that the only reason some coaches are head coaches at South River is because they have been there for 13 years. Winning and losing is not the necessity. The attitude of the kids and the kind of kids who are playing is what is important."
A source within the school says that many of the coaches are furious over the development, but won't say anything publicly until after they are interviewed.
County coordinator of physical education Paul Rusko, who has been in the county for more than 30 years, doesn't remember such a massive number of head coaching positions being open at one school.
It goes without saying that the opening of new schools creates such a massive "help wanted" list, but this never has happened at an established high school.
"I guess maybe because it's a new principal and new athletic director and they have to do what
they have to do," said Rusko, who didn't want to give his opinion about the decision, but added, "I don't ever remember it being done like that."
Hamilton did not return phone calls yesterday. His secretary said he was tied up in a couple of very important conferences and could not be disturbed.
One coach who wished to remain anonymous for obvious reasons said, "What about loyalty? What does itsay to those who have been loyal to the school all these years? How can they justify that?"
Haluck says it's not a question of loyalty.
"As I said, some of the same coaches may retain their jobs, and it has nothing to do with loyalty. We just want to see who else mightbe interested in coaching here," said Haluck, who succeeded Joe Papetti when he retired nearly three years ago.
Papetti started the school's athletic program and was also head football coach. Dave Summey followed Papetti as football coach and was hired on Papetti's recommendation to then-principal Stanley Stawas.
Summey's job will be open after next season as one of the five on hold for now.
"We didn't feel we would have enough time to interview for those positions, sothat's why they are not open now with all the others," said Haluck.
All county high school coaches have basically one-year contracts. They are evaluated at the end of each year, but most schools don't make a lot of changes. The idea is to have continuity in a program and you don't have that when you use a revolving door for coaches.
Vacant head coaching positions are advertised in all the schools by the Board of Education's human resources department and anyone may apply.That includes coaches at other schools and non-teachers who are called emergency coaches.
Emergency coaches are those who fill a vacancy when a qualified teacher is not available but there is a limit to the number of those can be used. Schools are encouraged to use emergency coaches only when absolutely necessary.
The request to advertise the massive number of head coaching positions at South River went to the human resources department on Wednesday, and the phone should be ringing soon with head-coaching job hunters on the other end.
"I really don't think they will give any outsiders (emergency coaches)a fair chance. In fact, I think they look down on outsiders," said one coach.
Most schools use a good number of outside help for assistant coaches in many sports, and Haluck said the practice of allowingthe head coach to hire his own assistants will continue at South River.
At South River, coaches such as Kenny Dunn (basketball and baseball), Greg Carroll (boys soccer and lacrosse) and Jim Morton (girlsbasketball) have been the only head coaches in their sports since the school opened 13 years ago.
It's conceivable that all of them could be replaced.
"Is that fair?" asked another coach. "Can you imagine Northeast putting up Harry Lentz' job (head baseball coach almost 30 years) or Tom Albright's at Southern (head boys basketball coachfor nearly 30 years) or how about Bernie Walter at Arundel (head baseball coach for almost 20 years) or John Brady's basketball job (14 years) at Annapolis?"
I know I can't imagine that ever happening, because they are solid in their positions.
The problem is that a principal such as Hamilton makes the final decisions on coaches, and it's my opinion that the final decision should be made by the athletic director.
It makes sense for the principal to hire teachers, administrators, etc. because that's where his expertise lies. The athletic director's expertise is hopefully in sports, and he should have theresponsibility of hiring and firing coaches.
Granted, the principal is in charge of a school, but if he uses good judgment in the appointment of his athletic director and has confidence in the latter's ability, then he should give him full rein.
Let's face it, the bestprincipals around the county leave it up to their athletic directorsto hire and fire coaches and go with their recommendations. They realize that their athletic directors are the ones who have to work closely with the coaches.
So if that were the case at South River, Haluck could make the decisions and not the principal, and maybe he would choose not to open all the positions. Haluck said it was "Dr. Hamilton's idea so I would have my selections as coaches."
This whole thing could be setting a dangerous precedent and could discourage goodpeople from coaching, because every time a new principal comes in, they could be out of a job. And people like tohave some security.
If there is a problem at South River with certain coaches, then they should be told and not have everyone else who enjoys coaching on edge.And let's face it, bringing in your own people is just like running a professional team.
And that makes you wonder where the priorities are at South River. Are Haluck and Hamilton really not concerned about winning as Haluck said, or is that the message they are sending?
Winning does breed pride in a school and its students and does getattention from colleges who come calling with scholarships and opportunities. So, there are pros and cons to the importance of winning atthe high school level.
There is no question that from time to time some coaches stay too long and changes are in order. But a massive overhaul like this? Is this high school sports or pro sports?
The idea of change at South River might be a good one, but the approach is not.
No matter what Haluck and Hamilton say, it's an indictment of the entire staff, and some of the school's coaches are real professionals who care about kids and don't deserve such treatment.