DILLON SEEKS NEW JOB, SHACKLOCK JUST WANTS OLD ONE

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Old Mill athletic director Jim Dillon and coach Debbie Shacklock have something in common.

Dillon and Shacklock both have jobs in mindthat they want. The former wants a higher position, and Shacklock just wants her old position as softball coach back.

Yesterday Dillon was among four interviewed for the county coordinator of physical education job. Paul Rusko, who retired from the post at the end of last school year, is handling the job on an interim basis until Sept. 30.

Other people interviewed yesterday were veteran Chesapeake High golf coach and phys-ed instructor John Irvine and Bob Maxey, a Howard County athletic director and former head baseballcoach at Mount St. Joseph High in Baltimore.

Shacklock did not have her softball coaching contract renewed and is upset about it.

Asked if he would hire a new softball coach before he left if he got the county coordinator's job, Dillon said, "That would be up to Mrs. Gable."

Betty Gable is the Old Mill High principal who has the final say in the hiring and firing of coaches. The current procedure by which Shacklock's job was opened up is something Dillon says he wants changed, and he expects the process to be scrutinized by a committee soon.

County coaches receive one-year contracts. At the end of each season an evaluation report on each coach is examined by the coach,athletic director and principal, and usually coaches automatically are retained, although that trend seems to be changing.

"I signed my evaluation papers in June and thought I was back as coach until Mr.Dillon called me back in mid-July to tell me that he wanted somebodybetter," said Shacklock, who has a three-year career record of 47-16, including a share of two county championships and three Region IV final finishes.

Dillon says her win-loss record has nothing to do with it and just thought, along with his principal, that a change was in order.

"We took a look at the program and decided we could do some things better and needed another direction," Dillon explained. "It has nothing to do with wins and losses."

That's what has Shacklock, who was also the region chairman on the state softball committee,puzzled.

"I can't get any sense out of Mr. Dillon nor Betty Gable, and I haven't done anything wrong, yet I haven't been invited back," said Shacklock, a phys-ed teacher at Odenton Elementary School.

"When there is a problem with a teacher in the system, they try to work with that person, but in this case, they're not telling me anything and don't want to work it out. Why?"

Shacklock's assistant coach, Mickey Cashen, was let go by telephone after the head coach learnedher position would be advertised.

The first inclination is that Old Mill possibly has a chance to hire one of those high-profile summer youth coaches, like a Jack Crandell or Tom Conley, Paul Tewey, Ron Schelhouse or Joe Cunningham.

"No, it's nothing like that, and we honestly don't have an idea at all who we might hire," said Dillon. "We advertised the position and have received one letter so far.

"We might have to re-advertise the position and find out if we have anybody in the school who might be interested in the job. Certified teachers in the school, of course, get first shot."

Shacklock said, "As far as I know nobody at the high school wants the job."

What's interesting is that the veteran Patriot athletic director wants to seethe system changed.

"It (one-year contract procedure) needs to beexplored, and I think it will soon be studied by a committee," said Dillon, whose position as athletic director is also on a year-to-yearbasis.

"I would like to see us go with a probation period of time, and if after that period, the performance of the coach has been satisfactory, then his or her contract would become a continuing contract."

It's safe to say that would be acceptable by the majority of athletic personnel in the county because of recent developments at various schools throughout the county.

For instance, at Northeast, Bob Grimm's removal as athletic director because his contract was not renewed created quite a controversy that spilled over into more than just an athletic problem.

South River High stunned everyone last year by announcing its administration and athletic director Jim Haluck would open up all its coaching positions. So far most of the Seahawk coaches have reapplied and been rehired without much of a stir.

But for years, many outstanding hard-working coaches have worked without security. However, times are changing, and no longer is anyone's coaching job guaranteed.

We've always assumed dedicated coaches automatically will return as long as they want. With this new breed of administrators, though, times are changing, and Dillon is absolutely right about exploring a new procedure for coaches' contracts.

Of course, if his idea was in vogue at the moment, Shacklock, who was a dedicated, longtime assistant to George Valiska before succeeding him after the 1988 season, would in all probability have a continuing contract and not be worried about getting her job back.

As she awaits her future as Patriots softball coach, Dillon awaits his as athletic director. The 52-year-old veteran of 30 years in the county school system is very interested in the county coordinator position, which for him is a change.

Last year after recovering from a mild heart condition, Dillon said he wasn't interested in Rusko's job, but since hasdone an about-face. He feels great these days and acts like someone ready to spend another 30 years in the county.

"At 52 years old, you should be able to do as much as you can because that's not old," said Dillon with a laugh. "I know I told you the end of last year thatI wouldn't be interested, but I've since done a lot of thinking about Rusko's job and believe I could put some very positive ideas to use.

"A few years ago, becoming county coordinator after Paul was a goal of mine, but I changed my mind. Recently, I've really given a lotof thought, and now it's what I want to do."

Dillon said while "it's always tough to tell," he feels that he had "a pretty good interview" with the county personnel department yesterday.

Dillon, with his extensive background at Old Mill and Andover coupled with the high esteem with which he is held throughout the state, would be an excellent choice to succeed Rusko. Irvine possesses many of the same qualities and is a 25-year veteran.

The county wouldn't go wrong with either Dillon or Irvine, and you have to believe they are the front-runners because of their familiarity with what is a great program overall, thanks to the efforts of Rusko and his fellow coordinator, Jean Boyd, who also retired.

If Dillon does land the position, a happy ending would be Shacklock getting her job back and then seeing Dillon's proposal of continuing contracts after a probationary period go through.

I can understand Dillon getting the job, but I still don't understand Shacklock losing hers.

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