A chance to right the Good Ship Blue Devil is at hand

By From page B1 | May 02, 2014

We are being given a handful of opportunities to return normalcy as it relates to our brilliant public schools.

Next week, a new school board member will be appointed. It’s clear from their answers on their applications that those who hope to replace Nancy Peterson, who resigned in March, understand what constitutes a conflict of interest.

The hope is that they also understand there is protocol that must be followed in dealing with concerns in the district. Administrators are hired to do a job, and they should be allowed to do so.

With that in mind, let’s turn attention to the search for a new Blue Devil athletic director.

Dennis Foster, hired in 2010, announced his resignation last month. Foster, a Davis resident who spent eight years coaching basketball at Natomas High, also served five years as that school’s AD.

It’s fair to say that his four years in Davis have been tumultuous.

A first hiccup was the firing of girls basketball coach Jeff Christian in 2011. After Christian released his star tandem — sisters — on a late December Thursday, the following day Foster said, “It’s a coach’s decision,” telling me he supported Christian on the dismissal.

By Monday, Superintendent Winfred Roberson had stepped in, after meeting with the girls’ mother, and Christian was out.

And so it began.

Foster said he had a coach’s back. But who had his?

Some coaches grew tired of broken promises, meddling and knee-jerk reactions. Some of the fault assuredly lay with Foster. (Remember a DHS golf coach finding about her dismissal when she saw her job posted on the district’s website?)

But in fairness to Foster, it’s hard to manage while looking over your shoulder. Need we revisit the saga of volleyball coach Julie Crawford — her contract not renewed by trustees (no reason given), yet Crawford was in possession of three years’ worth of glowing reviews by Foster?

Crawford was several times named Delta Valley Conference coach of the year — and still was rejected by the board. This canyon in district credibility was partially filled when Crawford was reinstated. Immediate fallout was the resignation of Peterson. Collateral damage, I believe, was Foster’s decision to step aside.

Foster, it should be noted, was selected as the 2012 Sac-Joaquin Section Athletic Director of the Year.

He says he wants to coach again. He’s been told by district officials — although nothing is in writing — that the school’s athletic director cannot coach and execute his executive duties. That’s another reason to give up the ghost.

Jeez. I lost count at 20 the number of sterling schools in the section who have an athletic director who coaches. (Foster led the Lady Blue Devils to a 10-0 DVC mark after Christian was let go.)

Now the daunting task: Find someone to fill the void. When the application deadline came and went on April 20, the school district had received 23 résumés.

Qualified locals apparently can see the clouds that hover over the AD’s office, however, as only two of those applicants are from within the district.

First-year DHS Principal Will Brown and Associate Superintendent Matt Best will now sift through the candidates, looking for those who, according to Best, have complete applications and whose minimum requirements are met.

After that, “we also look at employment history, letters of recommendation, pre-interview reference checks and experience.”

Best continues: “If there is a large pool of highly qualified candidates, we will conduct screening interviews to further narrow the pool.”

Interviews are expected to be completed by May 17 with a recommendation by Best and Brown to the school board by June 5.

All that said, here are some recommendations:

* Look hard at the in-house people who applied. If those candidates are coaches — and want to continue to coach — don’t eliminate them because of the verbal edict given to Foster two years ago.

* Make sure whoever comes aboard is given some responsibility for fundraising. There are service clubs and individuals in town who would support things like fresh coats of paint, new sound systems, new uniforms and other forms of facility and program improvement. Look at what was done with Ron & Mary Brown Stadium and the varsity baseball field. Sometimes all you have to do is provide a good project, sensible timeline and ask.

Our coaches are terrific representatives of a school that owns the most championships in the Sac-Joaquin Section. The AD should set up local speaking engagements to tell our story and share our history.

* Ultimately, district administrators and school board members need to trust the people they put in positions of authority. And if they choose the right person as athletic director — someone who understands Davis and, ideally, our high school athletic program’s needs and tradition — we can quell the storms that have buffeted DHS for the past few years.

It should go without saying: There has to be communication, and the hierarchy should follow protocol. It’s there for a reason.

— Bruce Gallaudet is a staff writer for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at [email protected] or 530-320-4456.

Bruce Gallaudet

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