York Athletic Department Challenged by Budget Cuts; Athletic Director Names New Swim Coach
Jim Clarke named head coach of York girls swimming; track students and parents make a plea for Clyde Ware's return.
The York High School Athletic Department is undergoing some coaching changes. Budget cuts have caused the layoff of beloved assistant track and field coach Clyde Ware, and the announcement of a new head coach for girls swimming puts to rest some of the questions surrounding swimming program leadership that began back in February.
Girls Head Swim Coach Not a New Face
York Athletic Director John Rutter announced Wednesday that Jim Clarke will be the new head coach for the girls swimming program beginning in the 2012-13 school year. He also will be on deck this summer as head coach of York’s girls swim team.
Clarke is an English teacher and currently an assistant coach in the girls swim and water polo programs at York. He earned a bachelor's degree in creative writing and master's in literature from Southern Illinois University.
Prior to coaching at York, Clarke spent eight seasons as the head coach of boys and girls swimming at Evergreen Park High School, "where his teams produced many collegiate-level athletes, earned numerous All-Conference and Academic All-Conference nominations, and won seven South Suburban Conference varsity championships," according to a press release from Rutter. Clarke was named Coach of the Year his last four years at Evergreen Park.
Clarke is taking over the position from Dave Davis, who will remain as York's assistant boys swim coach and aquatics director. In February, the announcement that Davis would not remain as the head girls coach created an outcry in the Elmhurst swim community. The group "Save Dave" was formed to petition the District 205 administration to retain him as head coach. Hundreds of supporters turned out for a meeting with Superintendent David Pruneau Feb. 22.
Rutter said in Wednesday's press release that the process used in hiring Clarke was "collaborative, with parents and community members."
“We look forward to the leadership Jim will provide the York girls swim program,” Rutter said.
Hurdles for Track and Field Staff
In an effort to balance the district's budget, School Board members agreed earlier this month to reductions in force that include assistant coaching positions at York. Among those laid off is gym teacher and assistant track and field Coach Clyde Ware.
Ware is a favorite coach among many students and staff members, some of whom turned out at last Tuesday's School Board meeting to plead their case for him. One student handed the board a petition signed by more than 200 students who want Ware back.
Four students and two parents spoke on Ware's behalf, citing the positive impact he's had on students, both personally and with regard to athletics, and his knack for pushing students to achieve beyond what they thought they could.
York student Stephanie Sorrentino, wearing a T-shirt that said "Ware's Warriors," said losing Ware would be a loss to not just students, but to the whole community.
"He's a mentor and an inspiration to all," she said. "He's a former Marine who has taught me and many others … not only about track, but also about life."
Sorrentino also said that as the only African American teacher at York, his dismissal is a blow to diversity at the school, a sentiment echoed by parent Margaret Harrell.
Harrell said when she and her family moved to Elmhurst, she spoke to the administration at York about her daughter's transition into the school. She said her daughter found a role model in Ware.
"We are blessed with many fabulous neighbors and friends, and yet being a minority in Elmhurst can still be lonely and somewhat intimidating," said Harrell, who is African-American. "As the only African-American teacher at York, for a growing population of students, Mr. Ware is their role model. He is more than a committed and inspiring coach, he is York's symbol of its commitment to diversity."
Elmhurst nutritionist and health writer David Grotto said his daughters were not athletically inclined until they were inspired by Ware.
"We have seen an amazing transformation in them both since being on the track team," Grotto said. "They also were inspired to be better in academics. My daughter is now a top varsity contender for pole vault and sprints. No one outside of our family has had such a life-transforming influence on them."
Chloe Grotto echoed her dad's comments.
"My family has changed so much because of him," she said. "I worry we will lose so much of that drive and confidence he instills, especially in young women. I got accepted at U of I, and I wouldn't even have dreamed of applying to such a big school if it hadn't been for Mr. Ware."
It is board policy to not respond to commenters during the School Board meeting. However, Superintendent David Pruneau has said in previous meetings that some staff members who have been laid off may be hired back in the fall, once more specific budget and student enrollment numbers are known.
He reiterated at the April 3 board meeting that the number of staff cuts represent a "worst-case scenario," and that he was hopeful some of the staff can be recalled in the fall.
"We're hoping we can do some things to bring these positions back," he said.
Questions regarding staff changes in the York Athletic Department may be directed to Athletic Director Rutter at (630) 617-2403 between 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.