Athletic director shakeup affects RSU 20 schoolsDue to financial challenges, assistant principals move into AD positions
The recent budget cuts that hit Regional School Unit 20 have had a ripple affect for the district's high school/middle school athletic departments, drastically changing the school sports structure and landscape throughout a portion of Waldo County.
Belfast Area High School, Troy Howard Middle School and Searsport District High School/Middle School will have new athletic directors/administrators beginning this fall.
The domino effect began in late June when former BAHS athletic director Mark Babin resigned after 11 years in the district — five as athletic director — after he questioned the district's overall direction.
In the early stages of the budgetary process, Babin's role was to expand to be the athletic director for BAHS and Troy Howard Middle School, a role similar to that of Matt Lash, the athletic director at Medomak Valley High School and Medomak Middle School in Waldoboro in School Adminstrative District 40.
Babin then resigned after being offered the Nokomis High School of Newport athletic director's position, vacated by Earl Anderson.
“This was just a real good opportunity for me, it was a positive move for our family and I like the direction Nokomis is headed,” Babin said. “And I'm not sure I was agreeing with the direction that RSU 20 was headed.”
The overall plan for RSU 20's athletic directors then changed to the assistant principals in all three buildings — BAHS, SDHS/SDMS and THMS — to take on the task of athletic director.
Thus, Terry Kenniston, who was the athletic director at BAHS from 2003-07 and is the school's assistant principal, begins his second tenure in that capacity.
RSU 20 Superintendent Brian Carpenter said Aug. 1 the move will save the district “about $50,000, but when all is said and done the savings realized may not be that amount due to the need to use game supervisors when the athletic director is not available.”
The RSU 20 budget for the 2013-14 school year was voted down for a second time July 30.
Jim McGinn, who had been the athletic administrator for SDHS and SDMS the past five years, also was relieved of his duties in favor of assistant principal Ruth Fitzpatrick, who, like Kenniston, begins her second stint as her schools' AD.
Wendy Reed, who had been the athletic director at THMS for several years, also has been relieved in favor of assistant principal Bruce Bailey, who also will serve as AD.
McGinn and Reed are both still employed by the district in other capacities.
McGinn, who also was working in the special education department at SDHS and SDMS, which shares the same building, will now be a high school history teacher at the school, while Reed will continue in her capacity as a physical education teacher at THMS.
“I was disappointed, but, at the same time, with my new teaching responsibilities, it was going to be much more difficult for me to be the [athletic] administrator anyway,” said McGinn.
“Sports is a passion of mine, absolutely, and it's been a part of my life [for a long time],” said Fitzpatrick, who was the athletic administrator at SDHS and SDMS prior to McGinn's initial hiring.
Fitzpatrick, who also has served in the past as the athletic director at Hampden Academy as well as director of the Maine Center for Sport and Coaching at the University of Maine in Orono, said “the dual role is always tough.”
“It is a passion of mine,” she said of sports. “I just worry about the dual role [of assistant principal and athletic director]. It's always going to be difficult when you're needed in two different areas at the same time. You always have that feeling of 'Am I doing both jobs well?' ”
Fitzpatrick said McGinn will be assisting her in some capacities, such as being a game manager or being on site at events when she is otherwise occupied with assistant principal responsibilities.
Babin also was a part-time physical education teacher during his tenure as athletic director at BAHS.
The 51-year-old Babin, who resides in Unity, said while he disagreed with RSU 20's overall direction, it was difficult leaving his colleagues and students.
“I've had an incredible coaching staff and leaving that was really a hard decision,” he said.
The 58-year-old Kenniston, who resides in Hampden, has taught, coached and been a school or athletic administrator at several schools the past 37 years, including Penquis Valley High School of Milo, Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield, Mount Blue High School of Farmington, Rockland District High School, Thomaston Grammar School, Hope Elementary School, Bucksport Middle School and Old Town High School, in addition to Belfast, where he has been assistant principal and was the athletic director before Babin originally took the job.
“I've always enjoyed the athletic side of things,” said Kenniston. “It will just be very hectic from the beginning of the day until the end of the day. The days will be pretty long.”
Kenniston said the reason the decision was made was budgetary, not due to Babin's resignation.
“When he made that decision to take that job at Nokomis, we were still looking at him being [the athletic director for grades] 6-12,” said Kenniston. “But we'd had some conversations that if he left or if money got really tight that we'd go the other route.”
In this case, both scenarios happened. Babin departed the district, and, according to Kenniston, “the budget woes hit the fan.”
“It was an opportunity to save considerable money in the school system and give responsibilities to people that were currently in [the] buildings,” said Kenniston. “And I think looking at the size of the programs that the buildings have, a lot of schools of those sizes are doing these things.”
“It wasn't a position I asked for or expected,” said Bailey on his new dual title at THMS. “Though I did cover for Wendy Reed for a while last year when she was out with a medical issue.
“They wanted to make it an administrative position, so [with Babin leaving] it falls to me. It will be new and it will be challenging," Bailey said.
The challenge for Bailey may be finding unpaid volunteer coaches, which may be the case with more impending budget cuts at RSU 20.
The district has yet to set another date to discuss the budget for the 2013-14 school year.
Associate Sports Director
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Mark has been covering local sports throughout Knox, Waldo and part of Lincoln county since 2007. He has a bachelor's degree in Mass Communication from the University of Maine and is also a 2000 graduate of Rockland District High School.
Mark is an avid fan of the Boston Red Sox, fantasy sports, the AMC drama "Breaking Bad" and iced coffee.
He resides in Thomaston with his wife Jenn and sons Beckett and Austin.
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