Archive for Wednesday, September 6, 2006

District seeks applicants for softball

September 6, 2006

The search is on for a Tonganoxie High softball coach, although administrators may not look far.

THS Principal Tatia Shelton said the school district followed its policy and advertised the job among district faculty and staff. And now, the district is advertising the job more widely.

Shelton said she has received interest from three district employees and one person outside the district for the job, which had been at the center of controversy.

After the spring season, Tonganoxie's co-coaches Debbie Himpel and Craig Lohman were named the Lawrence Journal-World's coaches of the year. Himpel was featured in the story with a photo, but Lohman, who resigned after the season, was not. That caused THS players and others to post comments, both critical and supportive of Himpel, on the Journal-World's Web site. During a June school board meeting, softball players and parents met privately with board members and administrators.

No action was taken on the issue, until recently when the district started seeking applications. On Tuesday, Shelton declined to say who the four applicants were.

When contacted Tuesday, Himpel said she had no comment on the matter, while Lohman did not return phone calls.

In the Tonganoxie district, coaches sign one-season contracts, so currently there are no softball coaches -- varsity or junior varsity -- for the 2007 season.

Like Lohman, junior varsity coach Merri Samuels, resigned from coaching in the spring. She also resigned from teaching at THS and has pursued another career. Diane Titterington was the program's other junior varsity coach.

"And it could be we hire everybody we had before, but we want to make sure whoever we have as the head coach has the opportunity to be part of that decision-making," Shelton said about hiring assistants.

Samuels actually was the head softball coach until midway through the 2005 season, when she stepped down from the varsity level because of health issues. At that time, Himpel and Lohman split the varsity coaching duties.

Applications will be due at noon Thursday. Shelton said that would give the school board a chance to review candidates at the next board meeting, which is Monday.

That doesn't mean any coaches would be interviewed by that meeting, Shelton said, or that any applicants would be discussed at the meeting. And, although there is a Thursday deadline, it's possible the process could take longer and applications could be accepted again before the season begins in March.

As of Tuesday morning, no interviews had been scheduled.

"We don't want to send any mixed messages out there," Shelton said.

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