by BRAD ROLLINS
San Marcos CISD trustees punted this week when asked to choose a new athletic director and high school football coach, voting 4-3 to postpone a decision and seek more applications for the job.
After a process of multiple committees and interviews whittled down a field of 89 applicants, Superintendent Mark Eads recommended board members hire one of three finalists — Todd Raymond of McCallum High School in Austin; Dan Burk of East Texas Baptist University and Robert Wilcox of Kingsville High School. The superintendent has declined to publicly identify the finalists or say which one he suggested to board members to replace Steve Van Nest, who resigned in June; the Mercury obtained the finalists’ names by invoking the state’s Public Information Act.
After meeting in executive session for more than an hour Monday evening, the trustees returned to a board room packed with onlookers and advocates and promptly approved a motion from trustee John Crowley to extend the application deadline to Feb. 23. Crowley, board president David Chiu, and trustees Lupe Castilla and David Castillo voted to wait; board members Kathy Hansen, Margie Villalpando and Judy Allen voted against the motion.
The delay action did not go over entirely well with the standing-room-only audience, some of whom hissed, booed and vowed electoral revenge as it became clear that the board wouldn’t make a decision that night. One attendee said loudly, “Pitiful, absolutely pitiful.”
Some of the audience members had sat on two committees comprised of parents, teachers, community members and district staff tasked with helping the district choose an athletics director. Eads pared the original list of 89 candidates who applied to 23. The Screening Committee narrowed the list further to 12. Eads then narrowed the list of applicants to six and the Interview Committee, after conducting face-to-face interviews, chose the three finalists.
After the meeting, Chiu said he was undeterred by vocal opposition to the delay.
“For adults to be booing and making threats, that’s pretty immature,” Chiu said. “I don’t care if they don’t vote for me. I just got a times three pay raise — zero times three. We’re here to find the best person. If this particular candidate’s still the best, great. But we have the opportunity to find a better person.”
Mark Newton, the pastor at First Baptist Church and a San Marcos CISD parent, urged swift action to fill the athletic director and head football coach position.
“I would urge you as a parent and as a taxpayer…I urge you to move forward tonight, to move forward with this process to hire the name that’s being recommended,” Mark Newton said to trustees before their deliberation and vote. “Please remove politics if that is the case. And for the sake of our children and our community, don’t make this a race and ethnicity issue. We’ve come too far in this community to go backwards.”
Interim athletics director James Chase has been employed on an at-will basis since his contract expired Jan. 15. He came out of more than a decade of retirement to be hired in June after Van Nest resigned with a severance package that included $85,738 and a promise from district officials not discuss the reasons for his departure.
Chiu said it is better to wait a few more weeks to see whether other qualified jobseekers apply and to build more of a consensus among trustees about a finalist.
The school board chief said he wishes there was as much passion among district residents for academic issues as there is for football, a sentiment echoed by the local teachers’ union chief.
“I wish there was more passion about the academic issues in San Marcos,” said Susan Seaton, president of the Texas State Teachers Association’s San Marcos chapter. “Football is great and football is big in Texas, but academics is where the children’s future is. There’s not near as many students that will go on football scholarships as there will on academic scholarships. So I wish that passion would transfer into parental support and help in the schools and in the academic issues.”
SEAN BATURA contributed reporting for this story.Email | Print