Tuesday, April 16, 2024

WAC Negotiations Disrupted by Job Posting for Head Coach

Harold Baker poses with a trio of young swimmers. (Submitted)
Harold Baker poses with a trio of young swimmers. (Submitted)

The Williamsburg Aquatic Club has begun its search for a new head coach after firing club founder and head coach Harold Baker last month, posting job listings on the USA Swimming and SwimSwam websites Thursday morning.

While the job listings further the club’s search for a new head coach, they might also have stalled potential negotiations between the pro-Baker camp and the embattled WAC Board of Directors.

Rebecca Cristol, the president of the board of directors, was in the process of scheduling what she called a “mediation meeting” with Sarah Podolin, a concerned WAC parent who has helped lead the charge to have Baker reinstated as the head coach.

After telling Cristol on Wednesday evening she would think about the meeting, Podolin said she was in “shock” and “dismay” to learn Thursday morning the WAC Board of Directors posted a job listing for Baker’s old position.

“Based on this action and the failure to consult the membership the past two days … they’ve continued to fail to communicate with the membership,” Podolin said. “I personally have no goodwill left toward them. I don’t trust what they’re doing. I think they’re being deceptive.”

The job listings say the new coach must be able to start by Sept. 1, which falls a week before the start of WAC’s fall season on Sept. 10. The date also falls around the time parents of swimmers are expected to pay their dues for the upcoming season.

Podolin and other concerned WAC parents had previously requested the Board of Directors not move forward with the hiring process until a special business meeting, which was formally requested during a July informational meeting, is held with the entire membership.

“To post this job and say they need [the coach] by September 1 and they haven’t even called the special meeting, it shows a blatant disregard to serve the members of the club,” Podolin said. “It shows, in my opinion, poor judgment.”

During the special meeting, which the Board of Directors must schedule by Aug. 29, the pro-Baker camp plans to declare a vote of no confidence, dissolve the current board and lay the groundwork to rehire Baker.

The pro-Baker members have already put together a list of candidates, which has been disclosed to the membership, they would like to see fill the new board.

Save Coach Herald signCristol and the other two members of the WAC Board of Directors — Luis Long and Ted Lynch — said they have been trying to organize separate negotiation meetings with Podolin and two other members of the pro-Baker camp before they schedule the special meeting.

“We reached out to Sarah … so that we could find a common ground, because I know we both want what’s best for the club,” Cristol said. “If we go to a vote, it’ll be more divisive than coming up with an agreement between their cause and our vision for the club.”

The meeting, however, appears unlikely after Podolin discovered the job postings.

Citing the fact WAC’s Board of Directors has already named an interim head coach, Podolin said she would like the board not to take any substantive or personnel actions until the special meeting is held.

“You appointed an interim head coach who is part of the team already and who is perfectly capable to manage these things until the issue is resolved,” she said.

Frustrated with what she perceives as the Board of Directors’ lack of willingness to work with the pro-Baker camp, Podolin also took issue with the board trying to actively fill the two spots on the board that opened up because two members took issue with the board’s decision to fire Baker. Podolin feels the membership should be involved in the process of appointing new members.

Not only did Cristol say the board has been performing its duties by trying to fill the vacant positions on the board, but she also laughed at the accusation the board has been working in secret to keep things from the membership.

“Per our bylaws … we’re supposed to appoint members. It’s always been handled by the board,” she said. “There’s nothing secretive about what we’re doing. In fact, I will be sending out daily emails to let them know what has been accomplished each day.”

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