After the sudden departure of newly-hired athletics director Britt Hart, the Paradise school board Monday night chose the district’s third AD this year.
Current baseball coach Scott Broussard was hired, eliciting raucous cheers from the more than 60 people crowded into the board room to witness the event. Broussard, who has been with the district eight years and has coached a total 17 years, will take over the reins of Paradise athletics effective immediately.
“I’ve been a baseball coach and I’ve had a lot of success there, and I look forward to carrying that success on into a good athletic program,” Broussard said.
Football season is the next big thing on the new AD’s radar, and Broussard said he plans to sit down with coaches as soon as possible to craft a game plan.
He also acknowledged that getting students up to speed on those plans and recent developments will be a priority this week.
Another challenge facing Broussard will be hiring some new coaches. Besides Hart, Paradise will also need to replace Eddie Fortenberry, Brooke Shepherd and Bob Ferguson. Chapman did not comment on whether these coaches leaving the district was related to Hart’s resignation.
The new hire came amid a flurry of questions from vehement parents about Hart’s recent surprise resignation.
Hart was hired March 25 after former AD Danny Neighbors stepped down in February. Hart’s contract was set to start July 1, and until then the district was paying him a day rate.
Hart said in a phone interview Tuesday that Paradise athletes are wonderful, but that he and the district could not resolve certain problems.
“Due to personnel issues, I decided to come back to Wellington,” Hart said. “Wellington has been real supportive about the issues I was having at Paradise. Paradise is a good school, and they have great kids. I didn’t get full support from the Paradise administration with those issues.”
Superintendent Monty Chapman said some of those issues had to do with the district not being able meet both Hart’s needs and the school’s needs when hiring new people.
“You’ve got to try to find that right mix for that person you’re trying to bring in, and it is a complicated situation,” Chapman said. “When you have to make sure you match what they are teaching and what the school needs, it’s hard. We have to hire highly qualified people.”
Chapman said the school acts on his recommendations when hiring new employees – including the AD – and said he was ultimately responsible for the situation.
“I was disappointed in the transition that occurred, but I need to make sure we are moving in a positive way,” Chapman said. “I think we are moving forward.”
The sudden flux in the athletic program, only weeks before the end of the school year, had some in the audience looking for answers and voicing doubt about PISD’s leadership.
“Every time I go to the barber shop I hear things; more stuff is going on at Paradise,” said Matt Edwards, a parent. “I want to address the fact that obviously we lost an athletic director. This community has got to come together and unify from the top down. Our athletes are losing heart. I hope and pray you guys can make the right decisions.”
Board Vice President Doug Bryant read a statement prior to closing the meeting stating that the trustees support Chapman and the decisions made.
“We stand behind his decisions and recommendations,” Bryant said. “We appreciate the job he is doing for us and look forward to working with him into the future.”
Other parents, like Carrie Schneck, were more direct with their disappointment about recent events and the apparent lack of communication.
“I’m going to be really honest. I’m angry, and I’m disappointed,” Schneck said. “I don’t understand why we can’t talk about this, but we can text it, Facebook it and talk about it at peewee – but when there are answers that are needed, it’s ‘This can’t be said and this can’t be said.’ We live in a small community and this and that is said but I can’t explain it to my kids.”
Neither Chapman nor board members were able to speak on personnel matters, but they still have the difficult task of reassuring the community. Chapman said hiring Broussard, and announcing it right away, is a step in the right direction.
“I think this has helped regain some of the trust we have lost,” Chapman said. “I think we just keep being consistent in what we are doing. I think we have to improve in challenges we have each day. We have a tremendous staff, and I think that is all going in a positive way.”
Broussard acknowledged he was taking over a program in major transition but said he believes his past eight years and his rapport with the students will benefit him. He knows he will also have to answer to the community.
“There are a lot of questions, and you try to be as open with the public as you can and listen to their points of view,” Broussard said. “Ultimately, you have to do what is best for the kids. I believe if you treat kids fairly and build some success, people will start to buy into the program.”