Facing pending budget cuts for the coming 2017-18 school year, the North Marion School District is undergoing an administrative shakeup that saw Athletic Director Brandon Fricke step down from his position last week.
Fricke served as both district athletic director and North Marion High School vice principal since the 2014-15 school year, but was granted leave to pursue other employment in November after learning that his position would be reorganized as the district looks for ways to cut back on administrative costs.
"Brandon was just terrific," North Marion Superintendent Boyd Keyser said. "He did a good job professionalizing a lot of our productions, publications, website and stuff we sent home to parents. He just had a keen eye for all of that and was a great detail person on top of things. We just appreciated Brandon a lot and we're certainly going to miss him."
The move to cut Fricke's role at North Marion came as result of the statewide school budget projections that were released by the governor's office in November. North Marion School District is project to see a shortfall of between $600,000 and $800,000 next year and the removal of an administrative position in the district is just one of several cost-saving measures that NMSD will need to take in order to shore up the budget, Keyser said.
"This is really a budgetary-driven position of how to make the most out of a bad situation," Keyser said. "Like every other district, we're going to be trying to find ways to do more with less. We had to look at all different areas and one of them was administration."
The move reorganizes North Marion's administrative positions with the coming retirement of Sharon Lohse, the district's special programs director, at the end of the school year.
As a result, the district will move one of its directors of learning from the elementary school into the special programs position, leaving an opening at the elementary level that will in turn be filled with the high school vice principal position that Fricke previously held. The plan, Keyser said, is the athletic director position will be filled in-house as a teacher on special assignment (TOSA).
All told, the reorganization will eliminate one administrative position in the school district, saving around $100,000 in salary and benefits in the coming budget.
Keyser will open hiring for the next athletic director in the spring and hopes to have the position filled by late May, prior to the position's July 1 starting date. The district will look either internally at teachers or perhaps looking in the community for a retired member of the community, former coach or somebody who is not currently on staff.
In the interim, the athletic director position will be jointly filled by North Marion High School Principal De Ann Jenness and Athletic Secretary Anita Whitehead.
Meanwhile, Fricke has taken a temporary position as physical education teacher at Century High School, allowing him to be closer to his home in Hillsboro and get a foot in the door for a potential full-time position next school year.
"I think it's a smart move on his part," Keyser said. "He knows he's going to be leaving anyway, so getting that employment and being able to audition for any other positions in the district is good for him."
The next athletic director will take over the position at a time of unprecedented athletic success at North Marion High School. In Fricke's time as athletic director, the district experienced an athletic renaissance that included winning its first boys soccer state championship in 2014, followed by the boys basketball team's first state championship appearance several months later.
Since 2014, the Huskies have seen a reassurance in the school's volleyball program, the football team's first playoff victory in 30 years in 2015, followed by its first Oregon West Conference title a year later. The girls basketball team is experiencing its best season in more than a decade, the school's equestrian program is seeing record participation numbers, the wrestling program is among the best in the state, the girls track and field team finished just outside the top 10 in 2015, and the baseball program made back-to-back quarterfinal appearances in 2014 and 2015.
"We've been on a fantastic run with our athletics," Keyser said. "We've seen more success in the last three years than any other time in school history."
Keyser credits a lot of the district's success to the vibrant youth programs, such as North Marion Youth Athletics, the youth wrestling program and the youth football program that help build excitement and support for sports in the community while preparing athletes for high-level competition when they get to the high school.
"It's a lot of hands making a light load," Keyser said. "All of those are really active community organizations that help build excitement and energy around our programs and have been feeders into our programs. I think that's a big reason why we've been successful.
"I think the future is bright for the program," he continued. "I think we're in good shape and somebody is going to step into the position that doesn't require a lot of salvaging of things or need to redo things."