Archive for Thursday, March 30, 2006

Holton AD to succeed Hawley

March 30, 2006

Richard Bechard has been hired as the new director of activities at De Soto High School and Lexington Trails Middle School.

Bechard, who comes from Holton, will replace the retiring Roy Hawley, DHS activities director for four years. Hawley has worked for the district for more than 30 years.

Bechard, who will start next year, is on a 210-day contract for $65,000 a year and his start date has yet to be determined.

Bechard said he was interested in De Soto because of its growth.

"I was also aware of (DHS Principal) Dave Morford and really respected him, and I heard they were looking for an AD," Bechard said. "That is a location of the state I was also interested in."

Morford said the respect was mutual.

"I'm very excited to have Rich come aboard," Morford said. "His reputation certainly is excellent. The expectations are very high that he will improve an already good athletic department."

An activities director is responsible for organizing all activities, not just sports. The activities director arranges the necessary paperwork and makes phone calls to other school districts so activities fall within Kansas State High School Activities Association guidelines. The athletic director also recruits and helps hire coaches for the year.

Under Bechard, Holton High School football coach Brooks Barta led the Holton Wildcats to the Kansas 4A State Championships in 2003 and 2005.

"I'm not looking to replace anyone," Bechard said. "I've heard good things about the current football coach and I look forward to working with him. (Barta) has kids in the elementary level and his next move, if he decides to take one, will probably be at the college level."

Morford listed more than a dozen awards Bechard achieved in his time as an athletic administrator in Kansas. Bechard earned his bachelor's in physical education from Fort Hays State University in 1979 and returned for his master's in education in 1989. He taught and coached at Stockton and Norton schools in western Kansas before coming to Holton as the assistant principal and activities director in 1990. Bechard has coached football, basketball and track.

"He's won a lot of games with his leadership," Morford said.

Bechard's hiring has caused some concern among De Soto patrons because he comes from an outside community.

Board member Don Clark said that while he hasn't met Bechard, he's not sure why the district decided to choose an outside candidate.

"He came from a great program from what I understand," Clark said. "He's going to have to be a tremendous candidate because I know the candidates locally who interviewed for the position who were tremendous people. If this candidate was chosen over local people, he would have to be a very good candidate."

Morford said the district considered its candidates carefully.

"There were over 65 applications for this position, and Mr. Bechard rose to the top," he said.

Bechard has been a member of the board of directors of the Kansas Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association since 1992. He served as its president from 2000 to 2001.

He holds the highest certification available for an athletic director from the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association, which is a certified master athletic administrator. Bechard is only one of two in Kansas to have the certification. He serves as a mentor in the same courses he took to receive certification.

At the Kansas Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association, Bechard has taught athletic administration, philosophy and leadership, athletic administration principles, strategies and methods, citizenship through sports and fine arts, innovated methods of mentoring and problem solving, management strategies and character in coaching.

At the NIAAA level, he taught a certification class on citizenship through sports and fine arts. From the KIAAA, he has won District II Athletic Director of the Year in 1997 and 2003 and was the Kansas Association of Secondary School Principals Area I Assistant Principal of the Year in 2002. In 2005, he achieved a state award of merit from the NIAAA.

Morford said in addition to Bechard's long list of accolades, he had a personable and positive attitude.

Bechard said although he has no connections to De Soto, he is planning to move to the community soon with his wife. He has three children, two sons who have graduated from high school and a daughter, Christa, a sophomore at Holton who is trying to decide if she wants to move to De Soto High School next year. Bechard's two brothers serve as a coach at Gardner Edgerton High School and head volleyball coach at Kansas University.

Lexington Trails Middle School Principal Mark Schmidt said Bechard would also take over some of Doug Opdycke's responsibilities.

"Doug Opdycke has been our AD for several years, but the workload far out pays the amount we give him," Schmidt said. "As we've grown bigger, we thought it would be a good idea to combine the AD, that way we can build up some consistency between them."

Bechard would spend about two-thirds of his time at the high school and one-third of his time at the middle school.

Schmidt said he's also enthusiastic about a character education program Bechard plans to implement.

"Mr. Bechard has also taught a workshop dealing with character based athletic programs," Schmidt said. "That's something we're interested in looking at for both schools. It's for young students to learn about positive attitude, not just winning and losing."

Bechard explained the character program had success in Holton.

"You're trying to develop an individual," he said. "When they take that uniform off for the last time, what are they left with? Are they left with knowing how to run and jump and shoot, or how to deal with every day life?"

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