07/27/06 — Sauls doesn't expect new facilities soon

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Sauls doesn't expect new facilities soon

By Steve Roush
Published in Sports on July 27, 2006 2:12 PM

Dean Sauls is a busy man.

On top of being Wayne County's athletics director, Sauls also oversees the county's social studies, world view, physical education and driver's eligibility departments.

Since taking over when Dave Thomas retired nearly four years ago, Sauls, a former coach and A.D. at Charles B. Aycock, admits his jobs are all challenging but equally rewarding.

"It's been a big adjustment going from a smaller setting at Aycock where I knew everything that was going on ... now being in charge of six high schools and nine middle schools," he said.

With the 2006-2007 school year approaching, the Goldsboro News-Argus sat down with Sauls for a question and answer session to talk about some of the issues concerning Wayne County athletics.

GNA: What is the greatest challenge of your job?

DS: There's so much pressure on improving test scores. We're trying our best now that U.S. History and Civics is a tested area. We've got last year under our belt, and we're trying to get better this year. I've adjusted better to the athletic part than the social studies. I try to make sure all of our athletic directors know what's going on, what's due and know how to double-check behind their coaches.

GNA: How valuable are school's athletic directors in relation to your jobs?

DS: We've got six A.D.s that are very good. They are all aware that with the technology and computers, that they can go in and check grades and get things caught up.

GNA: Discus how the new school year has affected athletics.

DS: We liked the old calendar year in athletics ... You start early in August and finish the semester at Christmas. It worked well for sports, especially basketball, because you start a new semester after Christmas and we knew who was eligible and who was not. Now we've got that period in early January where we've got to quickly check grades and possibly break somebody's heart on a basketball, wrestling or indoor track team.

GNA: Are there any specific plans in the works for new facilities at any of the high schools or middle schools?

DS: I don't think we'll get any new athletic facilities. I think they'll look at the crowded schools and those that need replacing. I'm pretty sure the classrooms will come first. Spring Creek and Eastern Wayne are in need of field houses. They've been around for a long time and need that.

GNA: What about renovations to existing facilities?

DS: I'm suspecting we will have to do some updated bleachers in our high school and middle school gyms, so they will meet OSHA standards.

GNA: With rising gas prices, what is the county doing to alleviate the strain?

DS: We're going to pack our athletes and cheerleaders on buses and cut back on the number of buses used. It will be uncomfortable, but necessary. We're encouraging our schools to schedule non-conference games with close-by teams. The parents appreciate that, too. The three conferences we are involved with are all pretty close in proximity. That worked out to our advantage.

GNA: What is your impression after the first year of the N.C. High School Athletic Association's realignment?

DS: We came out good. We wanted South Central and D.H. Conley to stay with us, but they had to go in the conference with Greenville Rose and New Bern, so they are in the split 3A/4A. I miss those two schools, but I'm glad it's them and not us in that league. The ECC is a nice 3-A conference with short drives and with Eastern Wayne in the geographic center. Goldsboro has fit in well in the EPC 2-A, and things will only get better. I think their longest drives are Tarboro and North Pitt. The Carolina 1-A has always been a close-knit conference.

GNA: Do you see any county schools moving up-or-down in classification in the next realignment?

DS: Spring Creek's enrollment keeps going up, and in the next realignment, they may be in the EPC 2-A. That end of the county has surprised everyone with the growth. I don't think when the school opened, they were expecting that. They've now got 1,000 kids in grades 6-12. Folks love it out there. I think it will be a 2-A before it's over with.

Goldsboro stabilized last year at 7,780, which is a good-sized 2-A. Unless they continue to drop in five years, I think they will stay a 2-A.

GNA: If new high schools are built in the county, would the district lines be redrawn and would consolidation of any schools be possible?

DS: The Board of Education and County Commissioners use the same lines for their districts. Somebody would have to redraw lines, but I don't know who would do it. My concern over schools is that Norwayne and Eastern Wayne Middle are both popping at the seams. Personally, I'd like to see another middle school around Saulston and get us to 10 middle schools. The high schools are crowded, but I like less students at middle schools. It gives more kids the opportunity to go out for athletic events if you have less students.

GNA: Are schools doing a substantial job at filling vacated coaching positions?

DS: It's the principal's jobs to hire and dismiss anyone and handle retirements. They have replaced folks at the high schools with good coaches that are teachers first. The middle school continues to be where we hire new people that are fresh out of college. The high schools are competing to find folks. We want more women coaching at the high schools and middle schools. That's a personal goal of mine.

GNA: What can be done to keep coaches for longer periods?

DS: In 1992 when we merged with the city, we had to index our pay scale to match the city's scale to put everyone under the same finance plan. Our minor sports need an adjustment in pay raise. We try to stay ahead or equal to the counties around us. If we index them and pay them a little more each year, it would entice them to stay at the position.

GNA: Talk about the role of Booster Clubs at the area schools.

DS: At the six high schools, the Booster Clubs are the reason their facilities look so nice. Those booster clubs raise the money, then meet with the A.D.s and principals. When the schools need something, they have come through in the clutch. They are a great asset. I worked with the Aycock booster club for over 20 years, and those folks want their programs to have nice stuff. It's the same way at the other five high schools.

GNA: We've heard a lot about steroid use in the recent years. What is being done in Wayne County about this issue?

DS: If we suspect somebody is taking something, our A.D.s, guidance counselors and teachers have a student plan. We notify the parents and can ask to have the child tested. It's all done anonymously. Every school has a student action plan.

GNA: Talk about the general state of sports in the county.

DS: We had 1,875 students playing something last year, and some of those were double and triple participants. It's the greatest daycare service this county can provide. It keeps kids off the streets, and they are supervised by teachers. The kids are out doing something physical and healthy and aren't glued to a TV or a computer game.