Starting over, and over

Baltimore City: Two unnamed schools replacing closed Northern High will field limited varsity teams this fall.

High Schools

August 15, 2002|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

Much like a quarterback running a no-huddle offense, Alan Holmes finds himself scrambling with the clock winding down.

For Holmes, there are still coaches to hire, schedules to tinker with, a budget to adjust and simply settling in to a recently appointed position as athletic director of a new school that has yet to be named. And, oh yeah, at 8 this morning, practice for fall teams starts.

In June, after 35 years, Northern High - one of Baltimore's largest and most troubled public high schools - closed its doors after the city's school board decided to split the school and its 2,000-plus student population into four smaller institutions.

Holmes, hired Friday, is in charge of the athletic program at school No. 418 - one of two institutions (the other being No. 419) that will be at the Northern High site on Pinewood Avenue. Both will offer a limited number of varsity sports until each is completely up and running. Rikki Sye was named athletic director at No. 419.

Another high school will take in ninth- and 10th-graders at the professional development center on East Northern Parkway - offering a number of JV programs the first year. And, 40 or so more ninth-graders are expected to enroll in classes at a makeshift building on the grounds of Robert Poole Middle School in Hampden.

"It's going slow, but we're getting there," said Holmes, whose most pressing need right now is filling coaching positions for a number of fall sports. "We've advertised that we're looking for coaches and are waiting on commitments from some teachers who have shown interest. It looks like I may be coaching a few sports the next week or so."

School No. 418, which will specialize in environmental science, will offer JV and varsity football and varsity volleyball, boys soccer and cross country. Its neighboring school, No. 419, emphasizing business, will offer football and volleyball this fall.

Both schools have head football coaches, Donte Carter guiding No. 418 and Chris Armstrong in charge of No. 419. Both are expecting between 30 and 35 returning players split from last year's Northern team.

As of late last week, a number of the athletes said they weren't notified on the updated circumstances.

"Normally by this time, coaches have called the returning players, but they haven't called yet. I don't know if I'm going to play football," said 418 senior Chris Butler, who also plays basketball and tennis. "We usually have our class schedules by now, too, but I haven't gotten mine yet."

Sandra Turpin, principal of No. 419, said all the new schools are in the process of contacting students but added many already know which school they will be attending.

Holmes said any students interested in playing fall sports who haven't found out which school they will attend should come to the former Northern gym tomorrow at 2 p.m.

The changes also have affected others, including the 30 paid coaches from Northern's 23 athletic teams last year who were asked to reapply for jobs.

Paul Holmes, Northern's athletic director the previous three years who also coached basketball for 10 years and taught at the school since 1984, sent in his resume but said he doesn't know whether he will have a teaching or coaching position at any of the new schools.

"I haven't heard a thing," Holmes said. "I've been in that building since 1984, and I feel slighted. I hope they find me a teaching position. If they don't want me involved in the athletic program, so be it, but I'd like to continue working with the kids. I've enjoyed [coaching] and put my heart and soul in it and never once had a bad evaluation."

Antoinne Marshall, a Northern alumnus now at the Naval Academy, said it will be strange, no longer seeing the green and white colors of the Northern Vikings.

"I was a Hall of Fame-athlete, so that takes any recognition away from me," said Marshall, a football and basketball player. "Everyone talks about all the negative stuff, but there was some positives there, too. I'm in the Navy, and I have friends now in college, so there's a positive side."

Fall schedules were put in place over the summer by Bob Wade, the coordinator of athletics for city schools. James Bennett, the principal at school No. 418, said uniforms have been ordered and that the communities will help name the different schools next month.

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