Killeen Independent School District Deputy Superintendent John Craft returned from his vacation Tuesday to a stack of resumes.
Though, given the difficult timing, that stack was considerably smaller than even he might have expected.
Thirty-three total candidates, including four in-house options, submitted applications for the open Harker Heights head football coach and athletic coordinator position by Monday’s midnight deadline for the job posting.
“The timing is what it is, it’s late into the summer and I know most coaches are in the process of planning and preparing for the upcoming season, so the 33 I believe is a good, strong number for the time of year,” Craft said. “I do believe amongst those 33 applicants we have some really quality candidates.”
Former head football coach Mike Mullins resigned June 18 to accept an assistant coaching position at 3A Navasota under former player Lee Fedora. Of the four candidates already within KISD, three were members of Mullins’ coaching staff last season at Heights.
“We’re excited about the process moving forward and we really think we’re going to find the right fit for Harker Heights High School,” Craft said.
The number of interested candidates is nearly a third of the 91 applications the open Ellison position received in January, and was nine less than what Shoemaker — which faced a similarly tight hiring window two years ago — drew (42) before the hire of Channon Hall on July 1, 2011.
“It’s kind of a good mix, just like we had for Ellison,” Craft said.
By comparison, 2A Salado received 153 total applicants before selecting Brent Graham on March 25 and 3A Lampasas reeled in 132 resumes before hiring Brian Emerson on March 6.
The last time Harker Heights was open, when Mullins was hired away from 3A Cameron Yoe to replace Todd McVey, KISD received 62 applications in March 2009.
Of the 33 resumes KISD received for Heights this time, four are current head coaches, eight have prior head coaching experience, and 10 are current offensive or defensive coordinators. There was also some carry-over from the Ellison list, with 14 candidates also applying for the Eagles opening in January, including one finalist and two others who interviewed.
“There are similar traits (we are looking for) as we had for Ellison — somebody that is enthusiastic, someone that’s energetic, passionate about teaching and coaching student-athletes,” Craft said. “(But also) someone that is going to be a team player, … there is (already) a strong athletic program in place at Harker Heights, and (we need) someone that’s going to be willing to come in and take a team approach to continuing to foster excellence in the athletic program.”
A hiring committee of KISD Athletic Director Tom Rogers, Harker Heights principal David Manley, Executive Director of Student Services Joseph Welch and Chief Personnel Officer Steve Cook were involved in initial screening of resumes Tuesday and will begin initial interviews today and Friday.
Craft, who planned to be involved in the interview process, indicated there may potentially only be a single round of interviews, with a hire possibly made as early as Friday — the last day school professionals can get out of their contract without prior board approval.
“We’re not going to rush into a decision, but at the same time we realize and recognize that time is of the essence at this point,” Craft said. “The committee may be able to come to a consensus and make a decision as early as Friday evening. It’s kind of hard to tell just yet.”
Of course, if the process rolls over into next week, Craft is hopeful other school districts would be willing to work with KISD to facilitate a hire.
“We would be open to having those conversations with another district, if need be, but at this point, I can’t speculate if that’s going to be necessary to do,” Craft said.
If the hiring process doesn’t foster the “right fit” in the committee’s eyes, Craft said there is always the potential to designate an interim head coach to allow for a larger and more appealing candidate pool to become available as next season unfolds.
“Yes, that is an option still available to us, however we’re pretty confident we are going to be able to find the right fit for Harker Heights,” Craft said.