Second-year Piedra Vista athletic director will fill the same role at Farmington High

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FARMINGTON — Piedra Vista High School athletic director Frank Whalen has been hired as the athletic director of Farmington High School, as well as the entire Farmington Municipal School District.

Superintendent Dr. Eugene Schmidt appointed Whalen to his new position on Thursday, and the hire was effective immediately.

In early October, former Farmington AD Don Lorrett was named the principal of Early College High School, which will open in the fall of 2016. Rather than hiring someone to fill the vacancy at FHS, the school board decided to expand on Whalen’s current role at PV.

Most larger districts in New Mexico with multiple high schools, like Gallup, Rio Rancho and Las Cruces, have a district-wide athletic director. So for Farmington, the change has been a long time coming, according to Deputy Superintendent Phil Valdez.

“The district has talked about doing this for as many as 13 years now,” Valdez said. “With Lorrett leaving, it reopened the discussions we have about reorganizing and being more efficient in what we’re doing. So this opportunity came up, and Dr. Schmidt wanted to move in this direction.”

There will be an on-site athletic coordinator at each high school, according to Whalen, and he will oversee those individuals.

Farmington and PV have a longstanding athletic rivalry as crosstown schools, which Whalen believes is healthy. But one of his top priorities as the district's AD is building the relationship between the two high schools.

“It’s a rivalry, but it can be a positive rivalry,” Whalen said. “If we can kind of get everyone moving in the same direction, I think we can accomplish a lot more.”

Whalen’s hiring comes at a time when the reassignment of PV athletics to Class 6A is looking more and more likely. The 24 largest schools in the state compete in Class 6A, and PV’s current student enrollment is the 23rd largest in New Mexico. If the Public Education Department certifies PV as a top-24 school, based on the three-year average of attendance on a 40-day count, the reassignment will take place.

Whalen, who is in his second year as PV's AD, said nothing will be finalized until the end of the year.

“I’m hearing that in December, the New Mexico Activities Association will let us know what classification and what district we’ll end up in, based on the enrollment numbers at that time,” Whalen said.

Valdez believes that Whalen’s credentials make him more than qualified to handle the added responsibilities, like scheduling and budgeting for FHS and the middle schools in the city.

“We’ve seen him through the years with our district. He has experience both at Farmington and at Piedra Vista,” Valdez said. “With his administrative background and his athletic background, we felt that he was the right guy and that this was an opportune time to make the move.”

Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.

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