COMMERCIAL-NEWS | ROBERT TOMLINSON - Centreville Junior/Senior High School Principal Aaron Hartong responds to concerns about his fulfillment of job duties brought up by one of the Centreville Board of Education members during the board’s meeting Monday.

Centreville school board members defend principal after duties questioned by fellow member

CENTREVILLE — Members of Centreville Public Schools’ Board of Education expressed confidence in their junior/senior high school principal’s fulfillment of duties following a concern raised by one of their fellow board members at their meeting Monday.

Board Trustee Pam Riley expressed her opinion and concern that Junior/Senior High School Principal Aaron Hartong was still coaching, even though she claimed Superintendent Chad Brady said during Hartong’s interview for the principal position that he “would not have an administrator coaching under his leadership.” Hartong is an assistant coach for Centreville’s football team.

Additionally, Riley said in her opinion, Hartong coaching is “taking away from his responsibilities” as principal, noting that part of those responsibilities was “to implement and supervise student activities and athletics,” and that he “is not at all the sporting events” Centreville hosts. Therefore, she said, Hartong was “not fulfilling his responsibilities that are in his job description.”

Board President Jeff Troyer said an initial response was sent to Riley by Superintendent Chad Brady, which Troyer said Riley did not find “acceptable,” which led to the discussion in open session Monday.

Troyer said his opinion on the situation, which he shared with Riley prior to the meeting, was that there was no policy that prevents administrators from coaching or participating in sports and extracurricular activities, and that they can do “multiple things all at the same time.”

“We’ve got some administrators who are coaches of various programs, so that duty, in my belief, regardless of whether you are a head coach or an administrator attending the event, you can be doing multiple things all at the same time,” Troyer said. “I’ve watched our administrators in a head coaching role walk over before they go in at halftime and address student behavior. Those things can be done.”

Troyer also said Centreville is a “small enough school district” that they can take advantage of skills and abilities people have to contribute to certain programs, and that they should even “encourage” involvement.

Board Vice President Jackie Bowen agreed with Troyer, adding that the superintendent is the person who maintains job descriptions for administrators, not the Board of Education, and that the board should be supportive of Brady as superintendent.

“I fully support Mr. Brady and his decisions to elect to have individuals such as Mr. Hartong, such as [Athletic Director Jill] Peterson, such as [Elementary School Principal Dennis] Kirby, reflect and do what they need to do to help run and administer the school district as appropriate,” Bowen said. “We have amazing individuals that care about our kids beyond belief.”

Bowen added that if it is valid to question a decision made by Brady, she would do so. Additionally, she mentioned there are multiple events per night, and that they “can’t cut Mr. Hartong in half” and take him to two different events at the same time.

Riley and Bowen got into a bit of a back and forth during discussion about whether or not Hartong was showing up to events “he should be at or could be at.” Riley brought up the last cross country meet on Saturday, which Hartong, who was in attendance Monday, said he was not at due to certain circumstances, while Bowen asked Riley whether or not it was in his job description to “show up at every single event.”

Trustee TJ Reed said potentially creating policy to bar administrators for coaching just to create a policy was a “terrible idea,” and that if there was a problem at an event because of a lack of administrator representation, then they would look at it, but they’ve “never had that kind of incident occur.”

“I have confidence that if our students were out of control or out of line, that Principal Hartong would step out of the booth, go down and rectify the situation if he were the only administrator there,” Reed said.

Riley said she was not looking for a policy to be created against administrators coaching, but rather that she was looking for Hartong to be “held responsible for what is in his job description.” Reed then said they might have different interpretations of the job description, saying his definition of “oversee and administer” doesn’t mean attending events, it means Hartong oversees the athletic department and delegates authority, and that if he wants to show up, he can show up and assist.

“Unless I’m missing something in the description that says he must be present at all [events], I believe his job is to oversee and administer, and administrate over that,” Reed said. “If the idea is he was not present or present but in the box, I don’t think that’s not necessarily doing his duty, in my opinion.”

Hartong formally responded to the concern during public comment, saying that there has been “a lot of investment and love into this community and this program,” agreeing with Reed’s assessment of his duties.

“My job is to oversee athletics and make sure that not just sports, but all of our extracurriculars are functioning at a high level, and I have a huge ambition for that. I’m pouring myself into this; I haven’t felt this level of energy in a long time. It’s been the best last two weeks of the start of the school year, and our staff reflected that in our first staff meeting,” Hartong said.

“There are about 75 athletic events at home, but it doesn’t just say athletics, it also talks about student activities, so we’re talking around 100 home events. On Friday nights when I’m there on those four [home football game] nights, I am sitting above the student section and I have my radio on, and I’m talking to my staff. With Sand Creek, I met with their AD and principal before the game and said, ‘I’m right there, get a hold of me if there’s any issue with our crowd.’ When it comes to those other [events], including cross country, I know exactly what staff we have at these events, and I know if there’s not going to be coverage, that’s where I’ll be. I think with over 100 home events, you’re talking crazy to think that one person can cover all those.”

Head Coach Jerry Schultz and another parent in the district also defended Hartong during public comment. No action was taken by the board on Hartong or his duties as principal.

Hartong was hired as the junior/senior high school principal back in June. Riley was one of two dissenting votes on Hartong’s hire, along with Trustee Larry Walton, citing Hartong’s lack of experience and credentials to be a principal.

In other business…

  • The board approved the district’s new strategic plan.
  • The board approved the proposed district goals for the NWEA tests for the 2022-23 school year.
  • The board approved an HVAC plan proposal for both the junior/senior high school and the elementary school, so that TowerPinkster can move forward with drawing up plans for the project. The cost of the project, which is not finalized by the district as of yet, is projected to be $1.55 million, and will be paid with ESSER funds and remaining bond funds. The current scope of the project would involve getting a HVAC system installed in the elementary school, as well as do work at the gym, cafeteria and a few classrooms in the junior/senior high school, while prepping the rest of the latter school for future work.

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 22 or robert@threeriversnews.com.

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