Athletic directors from Evergreen Public Schools ‘blindsided’ and ‘shocked’

The high school athletic directors from Evergreen, Heritage, Mountain View, and Union were told Monday that the district is recommending that their jobs be cut after this academic year.
Evergreen Public Schools will propose cuts of the equivalent of 140 full-time positions, including all four athletic director positions at the district’s traditional high schools. Photo by Paul Valencia

School district to recommend cuts to the school board, including the equivalent of 140 full-time positions

Paul Valencia

He was forced to look at other opportunities.

After all, Jason Castro’s own administration with Evergreen Public Schools had told voters that his job would be cut if the school levy failed. So, the husband and father of two looked at his options.

Yes, he had the chance to move on to a more stable situation. He had interviews lined up at nearby school districts.

He also had a feeling that the levy would pass, and that he would have a chance to make a difference at Heritage High School.

After a political campaign that he was asked to take part in, to lead, the levy passed. Castro thought he had job security, and he was thrilled with taking on the challenge of running Heritage athletics.

“I chose to be at Heritage,” Castro said. “I was reassured by people in the district that our positions were valued and if the levy passed, we would not be cut. It passed, and now we still don’t have a job.”

Jamal McKenzie already had a full-time job with Evergreen Public Schools, but his dream job was to lead an athletic department. He went back to college to earn the necessary certification in order to become an athletic director.

After the levy passed last spring, his dream job opened, and McKenzie jumped at the opportunity to lead Union High School’s athletic department. He was hired in July of 2022.

That dream job, he was told Monday, would come to an end at the end of this school year.

“Before I took the job, I knew it was on the chopping block,” McKenzie said, noting the timing of the levy. 

Then the levy passed.

“I was feeling like it was at least secure for another four years,” he said.

On Tuesday, Clark County Today reported on the proposed cuts for Evergreen Public Schools that included the equivalent of 140 full-time positions. Some of those positions involve part-time work so the number of people on the proposed cut list could easily be more than 150. Teachers. Librarians. Paraeducaters. And more. John Boyd, the superintendent, said in an email to staff that he would recommend those cuts to the school board at its next meeting on March 14.

Among those cuts were the four athletic directors at each of the traditional high schools in the district: Evergreen, Heritage, Mountain View, and Union. Clark County Today learned that on Monday all four athletic directors were told by their principals that their positions would not be available beginning next academic year.

What that means for athletics remains to be seen. Details have to be sorted out. But make no mistake, sports will continue at Evergreen schools. It is possible that the district will use a model that hands the athletic director duties to an associate principal. A district spokesperson said more details will emerge soon.

Some have wondered if this is a big scare, a test balloon. Did the district release this information now, before the school board meeting, to gauge reaction from the community?

If so, it is an elaborate plan that did not involve the athletic directors. 

“Blindsided” and “shocked” were words used by athletic directors contacted by Clark County Today. 

Castro said his principal had tears in his eyes and was clearly upset. 

“But he was instructed by the district to tell me I would not be the athletic director next year,” Castro said.

McKenzie said he greeted his principal like any normal day, never figuring on what was about to be said.

“He closed the door, sat down, and dropped a bomb,” McKenzie said. “That was tough.”

Christian Swain of Evergreen and Adam Mathieson of Mountain View preferred not to go on the record with Clark County Today. But they did voice their support for their colleagues on social media.

Swain replied to a Twitter post from McKenzie:

“My family is shocked and devastated. We were used by name and title as talking points that passing the levy would ‘save HS ADs.’ I held my sign on the corner, did my part. Feeling used and betrayed.”

Castro remembers the campaign for the levy and its aftermath, too.

“When the levy passed, we were all under the impression we would have a job. Nobody said anything contrary to that until Monday, being informed we do not have a job,” Castro said. “I was reassured by people in the district that our positions were valued and we would not be cut. The levy passed, and now we still don’t have a job.”

One of the ADs said he believed it would be possible to be reassigned within the district. Another AD said he just wasn’t sure. They were all told they would be getting more information at a later date. 

Boyd’s email to staff, which went out Tuesday afternoon, did note that the people who comprise those 140 full-time equivalent positions will be “greatly missed.” 

An additional twist to the proposed cuts: Three of the athletic directors are also head coaches. Castro is coaching Heritage baseball this spring. Mathieson is the Mountain View football coach and Swain is the Evergreen football coach. If the athletic directors do not have full-time jobs, will they remain as head coaches? 

Former athletic directors also showed their support for their colleagues in Evergreen Public Schools.

“Pass the levy so we don’t have to cut athletics but wait, just kidding, we will cut the leaders of those programs after telling them to get out there and hold a sign to save their jobs,” tweeted Leta Meyer, a longtime coach, teacher, and athletic director with Evergreen Public Schools, who retired from Heritage High School. “Dumbest decision I’ve ever seen, it’s going to be a disaster.”

“I am sure their plan is to add AD duties to an existing assistant principal. Because somehow (the) district thinks they have extra time on their hands and know what needs to be done in an AD position,” tweeted Rory Oster, former Camas AD. “It’s a statement from leadership that athletics are not important to them.”

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