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After scandal, restructured Dayton Schools athletic department nearly complete

Dayton Public Schools’ restructured athletic department is nearly complete, months after a Dunbar eligibility scandal led to a postseason ban and just weeks before fall sports begin.

New Athletic Director Shawna Welch, who was a school principal the previous 11 years, has spent the summer interviewing coaches in collaboration with a new district-level “selection committee” on hiring.

RELATED: Dayton schools plan major changes in athletics

The school board on Tuesday approved one of the two associate athletic directors who will work under Welch: former Ohio State basketball star Marscilla Packer, who has recently worked as the AD for Cincinnati College Prep Academy and an assistant AD at Columbus School for Girls.

Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said the other associate AD, whom she would not identify, has been confirmed and will be voted on formally by the school board at a special meeting later this month.

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In DPS’ new system, the two full-time districtwide associate ADs will take the place of the six part-time ADs who served each high school in the past. DPS spokesperson Marsha Bonhart said in May the two associate ADs will handle game scheduling and rules compliance, but each school will have a separate site coordinator assigned for evening sports events.

DETAILS: DPS sports had wild highs and lows in three years

“Those changes were made because we want to be better at serving our students, better at serving our coaches, better at following the rules,” Lolli said. “As people see the results of the changes we’ve made, I think they will be encouraged and they’ll start to trust us a little more.”

The past few years, as building-level ADs worked under district ADs Jonas Smith and Mark Baker, DPS had multiple incidents of missing athletic money, an eligibility and game-rigging scandal with Dunbar football that led to multi-year probation and this year’s Dunbar boys basketball eligibility errors, which led to the team being banned from the 2019 postseason. Those problems cast a shadow on DPS’ sports success — seven state championship teams from Dunbar (6) and Meadowdale (1) since 2010.

Welch took over this summer for Baker, who was reassigned as Dayton schools associate director of truancy. District officials said Welch, the 2018 district employee of the year, is the first woman to serve as DPS’ districtwide athletic director.

2017 STORY: Baker rehired as AD after football fiasco

2018 STORY: Baker out as athletic director; Welch new AD

Welch was a two-time all-area softball player at Patterson Co-Op High School and led her team to back-to-back Big League World Series age-group tournaments. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Indiana State, her Master’s degree in educational leadership and her special education licensure from Miami University.

Welch taught briefly at Meadowdale and Belmont high schools and spent 10 years back at Patterson teaching science classes before landing on the principal track. She was at Wilbur Wright the next seven years (four as assistant principal and three as principal) before spending the past eight years as principal at Wright Brothers, which switched from an elementary to a middle school two years ago.

She also coached girls softball for 11 years, basketball for six years and volleyball for four years, according to the district. In the past two months, Welch, through district staff, declined multiple requests for interviews about her priorities going forward.

RELATED: Dunbar wins 10th state track championship

Lolli said that’s because Welch has been “singularly focused” on interviewing coaches and staff.

“I think we have shown that we’re serious about our athletic program … however, we are more serious about our academic program,” Lolli said. “And the athletics enhance the academics.”

All fall sports coaches have been hired, and only a few winter sports coaches remain to be approved, including the Dunbar and Belmont girls basketball coaches. Head coaches make $2,000 to $7,500 per year for their coaching duties, depending on the sport.

The two embattled boys programs at Dunbar both saw coaching changes. Lyle Cole will take over the basketball job from Chuck Taylor, and Corey Freed will be the head football coach, replacing Darran Powell. Longtime Dunbar football coaches Alfred Powell and James Lacking will return as assistants.

OHSAA CASE: DPS admits error, says “we owe an apology”

The new athletic director system will cost DPS a little more, as the combined salary for the old individual school ADs is roughly equivalent to the $73,350 per year that each of the new associate ADs will make.

Asked whether DPS will be ready for fall sports, given the new system and the late hiring of the associate ADs, Lolli said yes.

“We’re happy to have the team together,” she said. “(The ADs) are already working together, so it’s not a matter of being behind the eight-ball.”

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