SOUTH BEND — A wave of change in high school athletics washed across the South Bend district on Monday, as the four school athletic directors and the district’s athletics chief received news they likely weren’t expecting the first week of March.

In a letter signed by the deputy schools superintendent, Todd Cummings, the five were informed that their positions were being eliminated at the end of the school year. In essence, they are being fired from their current jobs effective June 6, the last scheduled day of class. They then will be reassigned to a teaching position within the corporation but at a reduced salary.

“I was shocked,” said Bill Groves, the athletic director at Adams High School. “It’s just a mystery.” 

The other athletic directors are Clay’s Al Hartman, Washington’s Garland Hudson and Riley’s Dan Kyle; the school corporation’s athletic director is Seabe Gavin.

Instead of athletic directors, according to the letter, each high school will have a new position called Dean of Students and Athletics. This position will require an administrative license, “some” current athletic director responsibilities and “many other administrative functions,” including “instructional leadership” and “student management.”

Cummings cited declining enrollment, “changes and reductions in funding” and “leadership’s assessments” of the district’s needs as factors in the decision. The letter does not explain how replacing the four athletic director positions with new administrative positions would save money.

Groves said it’s common for him to work up to 14 hours a day, and often seven days a week. South Bend high schools do not have assistant athletic directors. In comparison, Penn High School has two assistant athletic directors.

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