ROTTERDAM — A mutual attraction has brought Dave Austin and Mohonasen's athletic program together.
The Maple Hill director of health, physical education and athletics will soon be serving in the same capacity at the Rotterdam school after a unanimous vote by the Mohonasen Board of Education Monday evening.
"He is a sitting athletic director with a great deal of administrative experience," said Shannon Shine, Mohonasen's first-year superintendent. "We're getting the best of both worlds."
Austin said he is anxious to begin work at Mohonasen. His first day on the job will be Oct. 9.
"I've got a lot to be excited about," the 34-year-old married father of two young boys said. "I see an athletic program on the rise with great athletic leadership. As Mohonasen transitions from the Suburban Council to the Colonial Council, there's an opportunity to create new rivalries. I've spoken to [former Mohonasen AD] Matt Stein about the upgraded facilities. The health and phys ed staff is as good as there is around. They're doing some stuff you don't typically see. A lot drew me to this position.
"It's the right fit. It's the right next step to my career."
Austin is in his 13th year at Maple Hill, and in his fifth year as the school's athletic director, having joined the Wildcats soon after his graduation from Russell Sage. He coached several sports and taught physical education and health before taking the AD spot at Maple Hill in the Schodack Central School District.
"What he did at Maple Hill, for a school that size, is impressive," said Mohonasen track and cross country coach Bill Sherman, who was on the interview committee as the school looked to replace Jason Friesen. "He is proven. I think he will fit in well."
Shine said Austin, who lives in North Greenbush, emerged from a field of 24 applicants.
"We interviewed eight, and seven of the eight were sitting athletic directors," Shine said. "The candidate pool was tremendous. The competition was stiff. This is a high-level position and you've got to have game."
Shine was very impressed by Austin's vision for Mohonasen.
"He is passionate, and we want passionate people serving here," Shine said of the Maple Hill graduate who competed in cross country, basketball and baseball as a youngster. "He is articulate, and that will be important when difficult situations arise. He was very specific in his answers [during the interview process] and that's something that stood out. 'This is what I have done and can translate my experience to Mohonasen.'"
Friesen acted as Mohonasen's athletic director last school year, and is currently serving in the same capacity at North Babylon in Section XI. While at Mohonasen, Friesen was a big backer of the school's move from the Suburban Council to the Colonial Council.
Robert Stulmaker had been appointed Mohonasen's interim athletic director at the previous school board meeting on Aug. 20 and will continue in that role until Austin takes over.
"Jason did a wonderful job," Stulmaker said the day after his appointment. "We had a nice meeting and he showed me around the school, and he had everything in order."
Stein was Mohonasen's athletic director for three years prior to Friesen's stay, and is now working at Shaker. Stein was actively involved in facilitating renovations at Mohonasen, including the construction of a new wrestling room and a turf field, as part of a multi-million dollar capital project.
Joe Scalise was Mohonasen's athletic director for eight years before Stein's stay, and left the Rotterdam school to work at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake. Scalise was a driving force behind the Mohonasen Athletic Hall of Fame.
"It will be good to have some stability, which it seems like he [Austin] will provide," Sherman said. "That's something people were looking for."
Austin said he will be stressing some of the same things at Mohonasen that he has while at Maple Hill.
"My athletes at Maple Hill are students first. That won't change, as far as my message," Austin said. "I want them to respect their peers and teachers, their coaches, opponents, officials. I do care about what people say. I want them to do the right things on the field and off the field."
Austin said he has a mission to improve participation numbers in sports at Mohonasen.
"That was a question in the interview process. What can you do to combat low participation numbers?," Austin said. "I have some ideas to reach out with the student-athletes and coaches we have to younger kids. There are some different things I'd like to do."
"He has a very good vision of building from the youth level and getting the community involved," Sherman said. "That's how you need to do it in Rotterdam."