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Physical education coordinator's job still isn't filled


Leave it to those brilliant minds on Riva Road to waste time and money during tough economic times.

While most parents have accepted the cold, hard facts that education cuts had to be made because of the economic crunch, the Board of Education, the Riva Rulers, has thrown away a lot of time and money on a physical education matter.

Just when we thought we were about to get the word on a new county coordinator of physical education, can you believe the job has been reopened for interviews?

It's a process the board has journeyed through once already, and it's likely that it will be at least a couple of months into the school year before a permanent coordinator is named. If one is named.

The county failed to replace Paul Rusko upon his retirement over a year ago, and Rick Wiles has been serving as "acting coordinator."

The budget crunch was the reason given for the delay, but the county was expected to name Rusko's successor by the start of this school year.

Fall practice and preparation for sports began Aug. 15 with no permanent coordinator, leaving the burden on the shoulders of the loyal Wiles.

This comes after an extensive search and interview process took place over the last year and a half.

John Makell, who heads the school system's human resources department, said yesterday that the county had been ready to have the new man in the office for the start of this year but ran into a problem.

"The one acceptable candidate turned the job down," said Makell.

Makell confirmed that the very popular Old Mill athletic director, Jim Dillon, who was believed to be the front-runner for the job, was not offered the position. Makell would not reveal the name but said the top candidate was not from Anne Arundel County.

Dillon was believed to be a finalist after the interview process in which six people were initially queried by a county school board committee.

Dillon said yesterday that he is no longer interested in the position.

"No, I'm not going to reapply, because I believe the people making the decisions don't want someone who had any relationship with the previous coordinator [Rusko]," said Dillon, who has been in the county school system more than 30 years.

"The board has put off naming a coordinator for almost two years, and I don't think funding is the real reason.

"I just think there is not a lot of support for athletics on Riva Road."

Dillon believes the board may want an outsider if Wiles is not promoted to the permanent position.

"That has nothing to do with it," Makell said when asked if the board was seeking someone from outside the county.

"I was part of the interview process, and we were looking for the best candidate. Being an outsider had nothing to do with it."

There was talk back in the spring before school Superintendent Larry Lorton announced he was leaving that the new coordinator was going to be named. It never happened.

Then, county administrators kept saying they would hold off until money for the job was available. With the budget crunch, it was more economical to continue with a lower-paid acting coordinator in Wiles than having to fork out a higher salary.

Rusko, who worked in the county more than 30 years, was making $67,346, the top of the scale for the position that starts at $42,793.

"Rick has done an excellent job and the county has gotten him cheap," Dillon said of Wiles, who has been paid his physical education teacher salary while performing the coordinator's job.

Makell said that it's likely the new coordinator will get paid well above the minimum $42,793 because "we give credit for experience."

The same applies to the teaching specialist position that starts at $35,365 and levels off at $55,479. That position is basically an assistant to the coordinator and was held for quite some time by Jean Boyd, who retired about six months before Rusko.

That job, too, never was filled and has been advertised with the coordinator job.

"I personally don't think we have wasted time and money interviewing because we have to make a very important decision," said Makell.

"It's more than sports involved in this," he said.

"Some people have the misconception that the job is associated mostly with athletics. We need to find someone who is a good organizer and administrator."

Makell cited the fact that the coordinator is responsible for physical education in 76 elementary, 29 secondary and a number of special-education schools.

"Our county physical education department has a reputation as a top-notch program and we want to keep it that way," said Makell.

Dillon, who was the popular choice among county coaches and athletic directors, doesn't agree that the county wants to keep things "top notch."

"Look how long we've gone without a permanent coordinator," said Dillon.

"I question whether they want a solid program and whether they realize how positive the physical education program in this county has been.

"We need to stop and realize that we exist for the kids."

Think of all the time and money wasted by the school board committee conducting the first round of interviews last year.

That committee made recommendations to Cheryl Wilhoyte, the assistant superintendent for instruction and school administration. Nothing ever developed, and about two weeks ago the position was reopened.

Dillon, who had hopes of being offered the job, learned of the reopening by mail. His reward for 30 years of loyalty to the county was a job-opening announcement in the mail just like all the county athletic directors receive.

"They also sent me an application, but I'm no longer interested," said Dillon. "I'm somewhat relieved now and can concentrate on my job at Old Mill."

Meanwhile, the board will concentrate on accepting applications until Sept. 11 and references after that.

Makell said interviews should begin at the end of September, and the board hopes to name a coordinator as soon as possible after that.

But don't hold your breath, because Tom Twombly and the unelected school board members get a crack at the recommendation after it is made. They can approve or disapprove it.

And who knows what that bunch might do?

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