KCHS assistant principal takes first career high school athletic director job

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FARMINGTON — Matt Jopek, assistant principal at Kirtland Central High School, will pull double duty for the school after accepting the athletic director position.

Cecil Linnens, Kirtland's athletic director for the past three years, took the AD position at Bloomfield High School two months ago. And KC Principal Shawna Becenti worked quickly to appoint Jopek as Linnens' replacement in June.

"Matt has 18-plus years of experience working with students, and he has been a great assistant principal here," Becenti said. "I felt that he had all the qualities to become our new athletic director."

Jopek, who began working at Kirtland Central High School in 2014, has never coached or been an athletic director at the high school level, though he worked from 2006-2009 as AD at Thoreau Middle School. Despite his limited experience in athletics, Jopek believes his extensive administrative resume will make the transition a smooth one.

"I think with that part, it'll be OK. This is my 19th year in administration, and I've been working closely with Shawna and our students and student-athletes here for a couple years now," Jopek said. "So I don't think it'll be much of a juggling act for me. Especially because we got a great group of coaches here."

Every coach at KCHS has been with the school for at least one year, expect for the head baseball coach, which remains a vacant position.

Jopek said he showed the coaches how serious he is about his new position by organizing a meeting June 23 to lay out his standards and expectations.

"I let everyone know my No. 1 priority is academic focus for all student-athletes at Kirtland Central," Jopek said. "I expect student-athletes to represent the school positively at all times and to be positive role models to the youth in the area. And I expect coaches that model positive behavior support at all times."

Jopek said he also expects KC's student-athletes and coaches to compete with class and sportsmanship, and he believes the coaches were "impressed" he showed so much devotion to his new position immediately after being hired.

Becenti said that's always been one of Jopek's strengths.

"He's always very visible around campus, and he truly cares about the students' success, both athletically and in the classroom," Becenti said. "He's built excellent relationships with colleagues and students, and because of that, he's the perfect fit."

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

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