Relieved of coaching, teaching duties, new high school athletics managers prove to be a success

Making time, keeping score

December 27, 2006|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,Special to The Sun

As teacher, coach and athletic director at Howard High School, Vince Parnell worked long hours and often found himself juggling competing priorities.

Most mornings, he would arrive at school between 5:45 and 6:15 to prepare for the social studies classes he taught that day. Then he would stay after school to coach football, girls' basketball or track. And, as athletic director for the school, he was responsible for scheduling buses to away games and taking money at the gate for home games. Sometimes he wouldn't get home until 10 p.m.

But his roster of responsibilities has changed now that the county has eliminated the job of athletic director and created a new post called athletics and activities manager.

It was something that Parnell had wanted for years and he took the job at Wilde Lake High School.

Now, Parnell, like other athletics managers in the county, doesn't teach or coach. He's still responsible for organizing the athletics events at the school and doing other jobs that formerly fell to the athletic director, but he has a new responsibility as well - coordinating the many community programs and non-athletic activities that take place on school property.

The managers have taken on maintaining the calendar for the school building, said Mike Williams, coordinator of athletics for the county. "If you are a youth group that wants to use the auditorium, they arrange and manage that calendar."

Since July, the county school system has had an athletic manager at each high school. It seems to be a boon for the athletics departments as well as for the front office, which used to be responsible for the building schedule.

"I don't know how we did without it," said R. Scott Pfeifer, principal of Centennial High School. "I just think it's working out great."

Williams said that assistant principals used to spend about 20 percent of their day booking community groups and making sure two events weren't scheduled for the auditorium at the same time. Those responsibilities now go to the athletic managers.

"Does that mean we just sit around and drink coffee more?" asked Pfeifer. "No. it just means we get in the classrooms more."

"I love it," said Adrianne Kaufman, principal of Reservoir High School. "It has been a delight, it has freed the administration from some of the `adminis-trivia' and allowed us to concentrate on instructional things."

At first blush, the job of athletic manager may seem to involve more hassle and less fun than being an athletic director. The managers don't have the challenges and rewards of coaching and teaching and it seems as if they must be saddled with day-to-day paperwork.

Some athletic directors, such as Brian Van Deusen at River Hill High School, chose not to apply for the new job so they could continue teaching and coaching.

But Parnell, who was a teacher and coach for 28 years, said he was ready for the change. "It's the way it should be, is my first response," he said.

"I do miss teaching because there's a certain relationship you have with the students, you see them grow and mature and those kinds of things," Parnell said. But he said that he now has more time to focus on the school as a whole.

Though he still has the same responsibilities for organizing athletics at the school, he doesn't have to come in early the morning after a game to prepare for class. "I think I came in around 8 this morning," he said last week, the day after a basketball game. "That's a significant difference."

Mike Williams, coordinator of athletics for the county, said the new job is classified as administrative and in most cases pays better than the former combination of teacher, coach and AD.

A teacher would earn 10 months of salary, plus a stipend of $4,600 as athletic director, and perhaps another $3,700 as head coach, he said. The new job pays for 11 months, and unlike the stipends, the entire salary counts for retirement, he said.

"It pays better, and all of it counts toward retirement," Williams said.

More pay is nice, of course, but athletic managers said the real advantage of the new job is that it encompasses a more logical cluster of responsibilities and eliminates the constant juggling between academics and athletics.

"I just think it gives more attention to athletics," said Ken Klock, athletic manager at Reservoir. "When you're teaching three periods and doing AD three periods and then coaching, you were robbing Peter to pay Paul sometimes. You were pulled in too many directions."

Years ago, athletic directors taught a full class load. But as sports programs grew, that schedule was reduced. By last year, they were teaching three classes. But they still had to juggle all the planning, grading and parent conferences with the demands of the school's athletes.

In looking at that conflict, eliminating the teaching component made the most sense, the managers agreed. "Your primary responsibility was as a teacher, which is as it should have been," Parnell said. But that didn't mean sports could get short shrift.

Williams, who was athletic director at Glenelg and Oakland Mills high schools for a combined 19 years, said he has been pushing for the change for about a dozen years. Parnell and Klock were also active in bringing about the change.

Joe Thomas, the athletic manager at Long Reach, said he misses teaching and coaching but believes the new job helps him know a broader range of students.

"I think the new position allows you to have more interaction, not so much in the classroom but in a setting out of the classroom," he said. "You're focusing more on the other activities, so you get to know those kids."

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