EDITOR’S CORNER: District’s next move at athletic director will be under microscope
(Opinion by Miles Smith/LPR Editor)
It was a shocking thing to witness just a week before Christmas.
At a time of year when you expect most people to be having their holiday office parties and winding down the year, the Lockhart ISD school board was all business on Monday night as it swiftly voted to eliminate the executive athletic director position held since 2011 by Sheila Henderson. The move came on the heels of the resignation of Lockhart High School head football coach Brian Herman, who had held the position for the past six seasons.
Special emphasis belongs on the word “swiftly.”
There was no discussion whatsoever of the personnel change in open session, just a deftly crafted statement from the superintendent’s office issued the morning after the meeting. The message merely stated the district would eliminate Henderson’s position and search for an athletic director who would also serve as Lockhart’s head coach.
Frankly, the move lacked transparency. The agenda packet gave no clue about the item. And the motion made and approved by the board made no mention of the coach’s decision to resign nor what it meant for Henderson’s employment with the district.
Refreshingly candid board president Steve Johnson said the next morning the move wasn’t personal, but purely financial. It’s a move that he estimates will save the district between $75,000-80,000 next year and will still give it a chance to have a competitive football program.
I believe him. It doesn’t add up mathematically to have a football coach earning $90,000 and an athletic director earning $100,000. Because those two job titles are typically blended in most school districts, Lockhart’s current setup is akin to having an AD who outearns both the district superintendent and the city manager.
That doesn’t make financial sense. On a logical level, Estrada’s recommendation is the shrewd move his board hired him to make.
If it affords Lockhart the opportunity to hire the next Todd Dodge or Bill Walsh, Estrada will be rightfully hailed as a genius and Friday night lights in Lockhart may have a shine to them not experienced by spectators in years.
That being said, let’s take a moment to appreciate the hard work and dedication Herman and Henderson put in as they tried their hardest to teach your kids to be upstanding young men and women.
Back in November, I told some of the naysayers to slow their roll about Herman. That the guy does things the right way. That he cares about the kids. That he’s concerned about teaching them to be good young men because odds are, at an average roster height of about 5’8”, most of them are going to have a better chance at being professional accountants, marketing reps or (gasp) journalists than they are football players.
I stand by that statement.
I also hope they don’t become journalists.
And the same goes for Ms. Henderson. In a year of covering sports, I’m hard pressed to remember a home or road game I’ve been at where she hasn’t been there cheering on the kids. Pumping them up. Words of encouragement if they’re struggling. Big hugs when they cry after a season-ending loss.
The kids really responded to her. That’s undeniable.
And in just the short time I’ve worked alongside her, I saw evidence of an athletics program that undoubtedly thrived during portions of the year. The softball team made the playoffs, a perennial occurrence. Both soccer teams made it. Track had a runner make it to state. The volleyball team made a turnaround like none other.
And the football team wasn’t bad either, regardless of what you may have thought. It was a resilient, scrappy bunch of mostly undersized players who worked hard to overcome the early season loss of their starting quarterback.
Job well done, Coach Herman.
And Sheila, your passion and love for your students is undeniable.
The next man or woman up had better be a football-savvy Great Dane. Because he or she will have four big shoes to fill.