ROTTERDAM — David Bertram ticked every box the Mohonasen Central School District was looking for in its next athletic director, and he’s thrilled to fill the role.
Bertram was approved by the Mohonasen Board of Education Monday night as the district’s new Director of Physical Education, Health and Athletics. The athletic director at Cooperstown High School since 2018, Bertram will take over for Dave Austin, who announced last month he was stepping down from his role at Mohonasen to become the AD at Guilderland starting July 1.
Bertram’s been at Cooperstown since 1999, spending the bulk of his career as an elementary school teacher and coach before moving into the administration realm.
He was immediately intrigued when he saw the opening at Mohonasen.
“I did some investigating, and I think it’s like a large Cooperstown,” Bertram said. “They’re really community-based, they offer a lot of activities for the kids. I’m just excited. I was talking to Dave [Austin] a little bit about the program, and the amount of community support they have with their community service projects is top notch.”
Bertram played college basketball at Niagara University and taught at a couple different school districts before settling in Cooperstown. He spent 16 years as the school’s boys’ basketball coach, winning 256 games, five Section III championships and two regional titles before stepping down in 2018.
Bertram also coached Cooperstown’s boys’ tennis team for 18 seasons, with his posting a 240-15 record in dual matches and capturing eight Section III crowns.
Mohonasen Superintendent Shannon Shine said the district moved quickly to find Austin’s replacement, with interviews at different levels of the process sometimes being conducted just two days apart. Eighteen people applied for the job, with seven passing the initial screening round. Five candidates moved on to full interviews with the search committee, with three eventually moving on to interviews with the board of education before Bertram was selected.
Shine said Bertram fit the profile the district was looking for to fill the position — a sitting athletic director with experience in coaching multiple sports, working in administration and teaching.
“We want a champion for our athletic program, as well as to direct PE and health,” Shine said. “That’s what we’re looking for.”
Bertram will be Mohonasen’s fifth athletic director in less than a decade. Joe Scalise served eight years in the position before leaving in 2014 to work at the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake school district and was succeeded by Matt Stein, who spent three years at Mohonasen before taking a position at Shaker. Jason Friesen served as the school’s AD for less than a year in 2017-18, and Robert Stulmaker briefly served in an interim capacity before Austin was appointed in September 2018.
“We’ve had a fairly rapid succession,” Shine said. “It’s not that we haven’t had good fits, it’s that people have actually used us as a steppingstone to get to where they want to be. Ultimately, you want anybody on your team to be where they want to be. The people that are going to be retained long-term, that’s your ‘final roster,’ so to speak. That’s what we’re looking for. We’re looking for someone who says, ‘I want to make Mohonasen home for a long time. I want to build a legacy here.’ I want someone who’s all-in, and that’s what we’re hoping we’ve found with Dave.”
Bertram takes over at a time that will be difficult to navigate as administrators seek to bring students back safely after schools have been shuttered since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As an athletic director, Bertram said he’d be listening to guidance from the New York Public High School Athletic Association’s COVID-19 Task Force throughout the summer.
“I think the biggest thing is kids’ safety,” he said. “We’re optimistic.”
After more than two decades at Cooperstown, Bertram said he was looking for a “big challenge,” and felt that Mohonasen offered a prime opportunity. He said he was drawn to the district for its commitment to academics, and said that he hoped to base his tenure on six “pillars” of education: dignity, integrity, grace, empathy, kindness and service.
“I’m going to try and bring those six pillars,” he said. “I know they do a lot of that already [at Mohonasen], but I think that educational-based athletics — which is so important for our kids — they take those valuable lessons and take them into the next stage of their life, whether it be the Mohon community or out further.”
Reach Adam Shinder at [email protected] or @Adam_Shinder on Twitter.