New Muskegon Heights Athletic Director Speaks On Coming Months

Andrew Trzaska | July 23, 2012

With the night’s focus on athletics, former Muskegon Heights Public Schools and new Muskegon Heights Public Academy System athletic director Gene Metcalf took the stage Monday at the most recent in a series of community meetings led by Mosaica Education.

It was Metcalf’s first day on the job after being hired last week, and he described his mental state going into a school year that is a mere weeks away.

“You get those butterflies before the jump ball but after that they go away, and that’s how I felt this morning,” said Metcalf.

Sharing the stage with Mosaica Education president Gene Eidelman, Metcalf led a question and answer presentationw with approximately 30 people in attendance.

Metcalf stated that fall sports are his first priority. Volleyball and football are anticipated for the fall.  Coaches have not yet been hired; Eidelman indicated they are planning to hire within the next 1-2 weeks.

When asked about the makeup of each sport’s schedule, Metcalf indicated his current challenges are getting in contact with other schools’ athletic directors who are on vacation, as well as determining if previously contracted schedules are still valid with the new school system.

“My job right now is to pick up those pieces and make sure those schedules are as full to capacity as possible. We might only have 8 games.”

Eligibility of athletes who transferred away and want to return with the new plan announcements will be determined this week by Metcalf, who has a call into the MHSAA.

Open gym, weight training and other athletic preparation can start once building principals are hired, according to Metcalf. Eidelman indicated some principals would be hired by Thursday and the rest would be in place by Monday.

Metcalf also indicated the charter district would have middle school sports, starting with football.

“I cannot guarantee they will have six games; they may have four, but we have to start somewhere.”

When asked if he would be coaching, Metcalf indicated it was not in the plans at this time. Metcalf coached Muskegon Heights to state semifinals under his tenure, and was assistant coach for three of Heights’ state basketball championships in the 1970s.

Parent and other community member comments solidified around one common idea; awareness needs to be raised about the charter system, including bring back student athletes who headed to other districts.

The presidents of the Muskegon Heights Booster Club and Muskegon Heights Alumni Association both volunteered to assist with communication and recruitment, which Metcalf welcomed.  He also urged parents and community members to share ideas with him at his new office number: 231-830-3730.

Enrollment “Moving Right Along”

On the matter of getting the word out, Eidelman indicated that approximately 250 students are enrolled, including 100 kindergarteners. Mosaica’s target enrollment to achieve budget goals is 1,250.

Eidelman indicated the 250 number is on target with the time remaining, and noted that many parents still do not know they have to re-enroll their students in the charter system if they used to go to Muskegon Heights.

“The word will get out definitely by the beginning of August,” said Eidelman. He indicated radio, direct mail, billboards and word of mouth would all be used to spread the word.

Eidelman also stressed parent involvement in the success of not just athletics but also academics.  Eidelman cited the “chaos”, including changes in direction and leadership, that he says defined the late days of Muskegon Heights Public Schools, to the detriment of its students and parents. He contrasted that to the charter agreement, which he called a “solid plan” that would give parents and students more excitement and motivation.

“We know parents don’t have the time and the energy to always come to school,” said Eidelman. “We’re going to make sure that school is a welcoming place. That’s why we ask for more time during the day and more time year round from parents.”

“Parents will find that it’s much more welcoming and much easier,” continued Eidelman. “When parents get calls because something positive is happening we think we can turn this around.”

Among his remarks, Eidelman also shared the finalized building assignments for all grades. Martin Luther King Elementary will house Kindergarten and first grade.  Grades 2-5 will be at Edgewood, and the Middle School and high school will remain 6-8 and 9-12.  He also noted that MLK and Edgewood would both eventually become K-5 buildings.

Andrew Trzaska

103.7 “The Beat” – local government beat reporter and political analyst