Don Mahler: Why Can’t Lebanon Hire an AD?
As the night sky lazily turned from light to dusk, Barrett Williams walked out of the SAU 88 building after an hour-long meet and greet with the Lebanon School Board Wednesday night, looking none the worse for the experience.
Presented by Superintendent Gail Paludi as the heir apparent to the departed Kelley Carey as the new Lebanon athletic director, Williams was encouraged by the meeting with the board, but still a little unsure of his job future.
“I can tell you I was not offered the job,” said Williams. “Gail said she would be in touch.”
That call, which may have seemed a mere formality as Williams left the meeting to congenial laughter Wednesday evening, will not be so well received this morning.
That’s because half of the eight board members are unhappy with the selection process for a new AD.
The 4-4 deadlocked vote, taken close to three hours after the meeting began, meant that Williams’ nomination was turned down by the board, leaving the school, the athletes and the coaches without an administrative leader just as the fall practice season began.
“We will review this in a future meeting,” said chairman Jeff Peavey. “And we will discuss the future process.”
Members Hank Tenney, Doug Preston, Bob McCarthy and Sue Louzier all cast “No” votes. You could see it coming from the public comments early in the meeting.
McCarthy started it off, pointing to the fact that there was no board member on the selection committee and no interaction between the committee and the board, something he felt as necessary.
“If I vote yes, I am condoning (the process),” he said. “And I am not condoning it.”
Tenney, a coach and referee for 40 years, was also upset. “I had no idea who the candidate was. I had never met him; I know nothing about him,” he said.
“As a school board member, that made me uncomfortable.”
Preston also took a swing at the process, pointing out how the need for the candidate to have a principal’s certification might have hurt the available pool of applicants.
Those same sentiments were echoed around the community since Williams’ name was revealed in a Valley News story on Saturday. And it was for that reason that Paludi brought Williams down to meet the board for a little face-to-face discussion time.
“I thought it went well,” Willaims said in the Seminary Hill parking lot following his visit.
“They wanted to get to know me and basically asked me how I would deal with different situations and the challenges that go with the job.”
Some of the differences between his previous job, as the Sharon Elementary School Principal, and the post in Lebanon Williams acknowledged were obvious ones: A larger number of athletes and programs, establishing relationships with new coaches and dealing with the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association.
But none of which did Williams think were difficult to overcome.
“I’m excited. I’m really looking forward to working with all these people.”
But all that hope and change is on hold now.
What is unclear at this time, is whether the negative vote was in response to Williams’ qualifications or Paludi’s nominating process. And does the board have the right or power to inject itself into the hiring process?
Well, it’s just Lebanon.
Lebanon takes its sports seriously. And the Raiders are pretty good at it, too.
Last season, the girls basketball and field hockey teams won state championships, the boys ski team boasted the state’s skimeister and the boys basketball team reached the semifinals. The football team was undefeated just three seasons ago.
So it should come as no surprise that the community, the coaches, the athletes — to say nothing of the School Board — would all have a vested interest in who would be named to replace Kelley Carey as the school’s athletic director.
Maybe at other schools, the position of athletic director is a part-time gig.
Maybe at other schools, the position of athletic director doesn’t include being the overseer of all co-curricular activities.
Maybe at other schools, the position of athletic director does not require principal’s certification.
Maybe at other schools, the position of athletic director is just to keep referees on schedule and equipment in order.
Maybe at other schools. But not at Lebanon.
Not at Lebanon, the home of legendary basketball coach Lang Metcalf and community godfather Jim Wechsler.
Not at Lebanon, the breeding ground for such stars as former Red Sox pitcher Rob Woodward and PGA golfer Rich Parker. And current Sox general manager Ben Cherington.
Not at Lebanon, boasting coaching standouts such as Tim Kehoe, Deb Beach and Andrew Gamble.
In the interscholastic dictionary, the definition of athletics would bear a Lebanon logo. But this story that was supposed to be a sports story, has now turned into a political football.
And somebody has to answer for the mess that has now befuddled this once-proud community.
Don Mahler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3225.