With longtime Moniteau County R-1 School District Athletic Director Rick Edwards set to retire following the school year, change is on the horizon for the position.
In fact, "position" will be inaccurate entering the next school year, as the district has decided to split the role between three activities directors; Jennifer Porter will be responsible for middle school athletics, Bobby Sangster will be responsible for high school girls' athletics, and incoming new teacher and head football coach Seth Womack will be responsible for high school boys' athletics.
The slight name change, from "athletic director" to "activities directors," is another deliberate shift; Edwards has handled all district activities during his time in the role, as will the incoming trio. District administrators are aiming to better reflect the roles' focus not just on athletics but on all district activities, from band and choir to DECA and FFA.
"We have some really gifted people who do things other than athletics; really, really gifted," California High School Principal Sean Kirksey said.
It's a natural extension of what the district's already been doing, Kirksey said. Teachers across the district are able to collaborate with other instructors who teach the same course, something administrators try to make sure is possible because it can allow for a better ability to handle any challenges that arise.
"We hired leaders," Kirksey said. "We hired two really good leaders in (the high school) position, and everything else can take care of itself."
Superintendent Dwight Sanders said splitting the position between three individuals will ultimately be a way to ensure the district is meeting its students' needs.
Each member of the incoming trio brings prior experience and qualifications Sanders said he envisions will help them succeed in their new roles; Womack will come into the district with high school and collegiate experience at the administrative level, Sangster has spent years coaching along with some time as an assistant principal, and Porter has two decades of coaching experience, coupled with her 16 years of teaching.
"I always believe that it's about the people, and not about the set-up, that makes or breaks something," Sanders said. "I feel like we've got three really strong and outstanding candidates to fill those roles. I feel very good about it."
Sanders said the split will also allow for some flexibility while the high school directors are in season handling their respective coaching responsibilities, football for Womack and girls basketball for Sangster. A large portion of the trio's responsibilities will revolve around scheduling, Sanders said, a process which Edwards will work to help the group better understand before leaving his role.
As for the trio themselves, each new activities director voiced excitement for hitting the ground running.
"I'm very excited about it," Porter said. "This is something that I've always wanted to do, so I'm thrilled that I'm going to get the opportunity to play a part in this role."
Porter said she feels scheduling will come down to being organized, a process which she said might take some time but will be more comfortable once the group learns its roles and gets settled in.
Porter said she plans to place particular emphasis on communication between herself and middle school coaches, getting an understanding of their needs and doing what she can to help their programs succeed.
"Between teaching and (the activities director role), and I'm still coaching, too, we'll be awful busy, but I'm excited to get it started," Porter said.
For the high school team, some of those same feelings are there — "excitement" for Womack, who said he is ready to get to California and get to work learning the job and the district, and an "inquisitive" view for Sangster, who said the new role will be another step in his 15-year career in California in which he'll be looking from the top down from a new perspective.
"We've been set up for success with Coach Edwards and everything that he's done," Sangster said. "Hopefully, doing it this way — even though it's outside the box, even though it's a little bit different — I'm excited to use all the pieces that we have to make this the best we can."
For Womack, he said the most important element for the high school pair will be continuously working as a team. Working together, collaborating and coming up with the best solutions to any problems that arise will make the job easier, he said.
The pair's mutual backgrounds in team sports will be a benefit to that end, Womack said.
"It's going to be second nature to us to work it out (among) the team," Womack said. "An activities department is really no different than coaching a sport; we're just coaching different things. We're coaching coaches and directors."
Sangster echoed Womack's thoughts, adding trust and flexibility to the mix as important elements in the role. He also said he's excited for the fresh perspective that will be brought to the table as Womack comes to the district from Oregon.
To that end, Womack said he plans to rely heavily on Sangster to get him up to speed on the lay of the land in California, helping him to understand the community and district and the system that's currently in place.
As for the pair's goals, Womack said growth is at the forefront including growing existing programs, getting more students involved or even adding more programs in the same vein as California's new wrestling program.
Sangster said, for him, building relationships is a key focus. With bringing in new coaches and directors comes building new relationships or strengthening existing ones, he said. Supporting students and strengthening the relationship with the community also come into play, Sangster said, as California's citizens provide their own support for activities district-wide.
"This is going to be a process," Sangster said. "There are going to be things that are done (differently), there are going to be changes that we all see as progressive and positive moving forward, and we're going to do our best with that. There's going to be times where we hit home runs and it's going to work great, and there's going to be times where we don't. It's all part of it; it's part of the process, but as long as we all stay unified, we all stay with the same vision if we get everybody cheering in the same direction, pulling in the same direction, then our outcome will be where we want it."