“It can be difficult for students and their families to pay all the fees that come with being an athlete. I don’t want any kid not to play sports because they can’t afford it. I have a few ideas, but I want anyone who wants to play to be able to.”
— Jeff Simon, the new Moffat County High School athletic director/assistant principal, on providing every student the opportunity to play sports
Four years ago, Jeff Simon resigned as Moffat County High School athletic director.
Torn between teaching two social studies classes and fulfilling his duties as athletic director, Simon, a 1992 MCHS graduate, said he had to devote his attention to one or the other.
“When I was athletic director it wasn’t a full-time job,” he said. “I was splitting my time and my students had a substitute more than they had me in the classroom. I chose my students then.”
This week, the Moffat County School District named Simon as the new athletic director/assistant principal for the 2011-12 school year.
The change in heart four years later, Simon said, is due to advances in the position, including the addition of the assistant principal title.
“It was tough to give up my classes, but ultimately this was something I wanted to do,” he said. “I think I will have to catch up on new studies and the politics of an administrative position, but I have my master’s degree in education administration, so I feel I am prepared for this position.”
MCHS Principal Thom Schnellinger said Simon’s assistant principal responsibilities will include discipline, supervision, administrative tasks and teacher evaluations.
Simon and assistant principal Travis Jensen will split discipline responsibilities so that Simon oversees the junior and senior classes and Jensen oversees the freshman and sophomore classes.
“There’ll be days (Simon) looks more like an athletic director and days he’ll look more like an assistant principal,” Schnellinger said.
Schnellinger said Simon’s long tenure in Moffat County — he has taught at MCHS since 2000 — was the deciding factor.
“Jeff was the best candidate for the job,” Schnellinger said. “He is an MCHS grad, so he knows the school and he knows the community. He brings experience and commitment to the position.
“I think we’re very lucky to have him.”
The school district interviewed outside candidates, Schnellinger said, but felt an inside hire would bring commitment to the athletic director role school officials were looking for.
“This position cannot be an ongoing stepping stone,” he said. “It is hard on the programs and the coaches having turnover every two or three years, so we wanted someone who was looking to be here long term.”
Simon said he has always been interested in athletics, and as athletic director he gets to see students in a “different light.”
“In sports, I get to see the kids put forth effort both physically and mentally,” he said. “ I get to see a different side of the athletes from being in the classroom.”
While Simon’s first official day in the new role isn’t until Aug. 1, he started the job duties Wednesday.
The first thing on his plate, Simon said, is to make as smooth of a transition as possible from previous athletic director Richard Wildenhaus.
“Rich did a great job,” he said. “I have my own ideas, but I want to take what he was doing into the next school year and then start with my ideas to make the transition smooth.”
At the top of his to-do list, Simon said, is to work on the financial burden sports can have on local families.
“It can be difficult for students and their families to pay all the fees that come with being an athlete,” he said. “I don’t want any kid not to play sports because they can’t afford it. I have a few ideas, but I want anyone who wants to play to be able to.”
As the fall sports season approaches, Simon said his closest immediate relationships would be with coaches.
“I graduated with Matt Ray and I coached with Kip (Hafey),” he said. “I feel I have a good relationship with most of the coaches either through work or past relationships.”
With any new hire, Simon said, changes will be made. Being an inside hire doesn’t change that, he said.
“No matter who comes in, there is going to be a transitional period,” he said. “I hope to have all the basics covered before the school year starts so the athletes can continue to have fun.”
— News editor Michelle Balleck contributed to this story.
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