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Lebanon Redrafts AD Criteria

Lebanon — A resolution appears to be on the horizon in the months-long dispute over the high school athletic director position, though the School Board has not reached consensus on a key aspects of the job description.

A committee of the School Board on Wednesday presented its draft of a revised job description for the athletic director position. The committee was formed after the board had blocked an administrator’s nominee for the post amid disputes over the search process.

While the board is at loggerheads over certain aspects of the job description, a vote on the matter is expected next month.

The committee’s draft of the job description states that previous athletic director experience is “preferred” and states that a principal’s certification — which some board members felt should not be included — would be required within two years of employment. The certification was the main topic of discussion at Wednesday night’s meeting.

Some board members have described the principal’s certificate as an impediment in attracting candidates, arguing that it thinned the pool of applicants during last summer’s search .

Kathleen Berger, chairwoman of the personnel and negotiations committee tasked with tweaking the job description, said the requirement was a major focus of the committee’s deliberations.

She added that the athletic director’s responsibilities are largely administrative in nature — for example, the job description lists 18 bullets for “administrative” tasks and 10 for “management” tasks.

“That tipped the scales for us, that in fact an administrative qualification is important in this,” Berger said. “Maybe 20, 30 years ago, it was not — things change.”

The draft job description gives a two-year window in which the principal’s certificate may be obtained, rather than listing it as a prerequisite for being hired.

Lebanon High School Principal Nan Parsons said on Thursday that the committee initially suggested three years, but she advised to stipulate a one-year window instead. A two-year window was the compromise . The school district would cover the expense of obtaining the certificate.

On Wednesday night, School Board member Lori Hibner pointed out, however, that given the level of experience necessary for the job, most candidates “will have a good chunk of (the certificate requirement) completed already.

“It’s not that we are going to be financing a full certification,” she said.

School Board member Bob McCarthy, however, said that he’s received phone calls and emails from residents who oppose the principal’s certification being included in the job description at all.

“From everybody that I have talked to, if that is in there, I probably will not support this,” he said.

Parsons said Thursday that part of the athletic director’s job is to evaluate the performance of three teachers — one physical education teacher and two health teachers. The principal’s certificate is required to conduct performance reviews, but Parsons said other administrators would conduct the evaluations if necessary.

Parsons added that she still believes the requirement is “necessary and important,” adding that the training instills a “deep level of understanding about confidentiality and managing conflict resolution with parents, teachers and community members.

“When you’re an administrator, you’re in a high-profile situation where there can often be many circumstances of high levels of conflict,” said Parsons.

Underlying the certificate issue is a fear shared among some board members that the athletic director post at the high school has become a spring board for principal positions at other schools. The last two athletic directors are now elementary school principals in the Upper Valley.

“I’m kind of a Lebanon guy, I’m a team guy,” McCarthy said. “I want to see somebody that comes here that’s going to have a vested interest in this place and that this is not going to be a stepping stone once they get this to move on to be a principal somewhere else, and this is a revolving door.”

Hibner countered that the district shouldn’t shy away from better qualified candidates and should instead be looking for applicants who are “shooting for something more.

“I hope that we are looking for individuals in this district who want something more, and I don’t want to take something out to appease some people and get someone who won’t be qualified,” she said.

School Board Chairman Jeff Peavey raised other issues Wednesday night, such as whether it should be stipulated in the job description that an athletic director is barred from coaching a team. Peavey said he felt that coaching should be forbidden, given the athletic director’s extensive responsibilities .

For that reason, Peavey also voiced his displeasure with the two-year window in which a principal’s certificate could be acquired. He said that an athletic director should not be expected to earn a certificate in that time frame given his or her full plate of responsibilities.

“I would find it very hard with what free time this individual may have, to mandate him to go and in two years to have this certification,” Peavey said. “ ... To me, that does not work well. You’re really putting someone under the gun, especially if he has any family time or children of his own.”

Parsons said that during the summer interview process, a “good number of candidates” were within a few courses of having the certificate but did not yet earn it.

“That’s why I felt a year was reasonable,” Parsons said.

On Thursday, Superintendent Gail Paludi said she fully supported the draft that the personnel committee presented on Wednesday night. She was in the process of organizing information that had been requested by McCarthy, specifically what other New Hampshire districts had similar qualification requirements for athletic directors, and how’s Lebanon’s salary for the position compared to other schools.

Paludi said that Keene’s school district requires the certificate for a position that is split 50-50 between overseeing athletics and serving as vice principal at the high school. She also identified the Sanborn Regional School District, which requires the administrator’s certificate for its athletic director.

Paludi added that she was unable to locate a salary list for athletic directors in the state .

“We’re going to go out and ask people in the state to tell us what they’re paying (athletic directors),” Paludi said. “That’s the only thing we can really do.”

Parsons said she has learned “a great deal” from the time she spent filling in as athletic director for the high school.

“My respect for athletic directors has gone up significantly,” she said. “I knew they worked hard, I knew they were knowledgeable, but there aren’t even words to express what a challenging position being an athletic director is. I already had great respect — it’s magnified significantly since I’ve had to take over many of those pieces.”

Ben Conarck can be reached at bconarck@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.