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Monday, July 8, 2013

Right call needed from Nashua brass

Tom King

This is a big week – heck, a big month – for the future of Nashua school athletics.

City school officials have yet another chance to try to get it right. They have another shot to try to find a long-term solution to the position that is known as Nashua Athletic Director. ...

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This is a big week – heck, a big month – for the future of Nashua school athletics.

City school officials have yet another chance to try to get it right. They have another shot to try to find a long-term solution to the position that is known as Nashua Athletic Director.

Three years ago, they thought they had found their guy in Tom Arria, a young up-and-comer who had worked in the private school sector at Matignon in Cambridge, Mass., then jumped to the public in Dedham.

Arria was a stunning hire, when most thought Scott Insinga, who had served as the interim when Peter Casey left, would get the job. Insinga was a loyal soldier, worked well in the system, was liked by all the coaches, and had “long-term” written all over him.

But Arria’s charisma and youth won over some key members of the search committee. He got the job, and did a very, very good job as expected.

Except he wasn’t the long-term solution. A young man with a young family, he was understandably looking to better himself if he could. He never made the move to live in or near Nashua, and that to these eyes was really the first sign. In today’s economy, he could save tons of dollars just getting a job closer to the Boston area, or done it the other way by moving north.

He chose the former. The job he got, as Cambridge Rindge & Latin AD, was one he had pursued a year earlier – just two years after getting the Nashua job.

So now, with interviews reportedly set to begin this week, the Nashua brass has a chance to try it all over again. There always seems to be another job better than the Nashua AD position out there. Angelo Fantasia found one at Timberlane, Peter Casey did at UMass-Lowell, and Arria did.

A month ago, upon Arria’s expected resignation, Superintendent of Schools Mark Conrad looked at the recent common denominator and surmised that this is a simple case of losing out to organizations south of the border.

“You might see that our salaries are not competitive with Massachusetts,” he said. “Obviously, that’s part of the difficulty we face.”

He doesn’t get it. Who says you have to compete with Massachusetts? That might not be a problem if you simply go with someone from New Hampshire – or better yet, Nashua – who has been in the system, or familiar with the system.

You always seek out the best candidate, but the best candidate doesn’t necessarily have to be the most qualified one according to the resume. Three years ago officials made a classic mistake. Not that Arria was a “mistake” because he couldn’t do the job, he did an excellent one.

But in terms of longevity, they saw youth mixed with enough solid experience and thought they had the answer. They went with what was on paper, and ignored the subtle signs.

Now it’s finally time to make longevity a clear priority. It’s been said in this space over and over the last decade, but really, people, let’s understand the issues here. It appears officials want to keep the same model that they’ve had – one overall AD, with coordinators at two high schools. It was, as Conrad said, a “new model for us.”

It’s one that apparently worked – and has given the system two built-in candidates for the current vacancy in Insinga, who coordinated South, and Will Henderson, who handled the duties at North. The former setup, with just an overall AD and assistant AD, was a failure. Way too much for one or two people to handle.

“The Nashua AD position, the way it’s set up now, could be one of the best jobs in the state,” Arria said upon his departure.

The list is a familiar one: Jim Davis, Butch Joseph, Angelo Fantasia, Peter Casey, Scott Insinga, Tom Arria. They’ve all been the Nashua athletic director either as an interim or in a so-called permanent role since Al Harrington’s retirement in the late 1990s.

“Obviously,” Conrad said, “the turnover is a concern.”

Then now it’s time to use the short term to solve a long term concern.

Tom King can be reached at 594-6468 or tking@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow King on Twitter
(@Telegraph_TomK).