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Southern Section needs to exercise due diligence in hiring new commissioner

ERIC SONDHEIMER / ON HIGH SCHOOLS

Organization's search for a replacement for the retiring Jim Staunton should take into account several crucial factors.

January 16, 2011|Eric Sondheimer
(Los Angeles Times )

A search will soon begin to find a replacement for Jim Staunton, the retiring commissioner of the CIF Southern Section.

It's important that the committee entrusted with hiring a commissioner thoroughly investigate, interview and test the applicants to see whether they are prepared and qualified to handle the many responsibilites and tasks that come with the job of overseeing the largest of the 10 sections that run high school sports in California.

Among the questions that need to be asked:

What ideas do you have to reduce the animosity and tension between private and public schools?

How will you decide whether a student has transferred for sports reasons, thus denying them a year of eligibility?

How do you plan to move the Southern Section into the 21st century in regard to using TV, the Internet and social media platforms to create financial and public relations opportunities for the 579 schools in the Southern Section?

When you get angry, how do you react and treat others?

Do you return phone calls promptly?

Will you be the spokesperson for the Southern Section or leave that role to someone else?

All these issues need to be examined, because the position requires more than just someone who is an ex-principal or ex-coach. They must have integrity, leadership skills and the courage to make tough decisions.

In 11 years as commissioner, Staunton was competent and tried to create an environment where ethics and following the rules was important. But whether because of lack of resources or lack of evidence, lots of perceived cheaters went unchallenged. A new commissioner needs to rally the troops and use persuasion and peer pressure to break the cycle of the same schools and same individuals getting away with manipulating rules and procedures.

In other words, it's time to end the status quo.

At the same time, there's going to be a huge challenge in dealing with the increasing combativeness of schools and individuals rejecting decisions made by the commissioner. Private schools, in particular, armed with money and attorneys, don't like being told what to do. The next commissioner has to be able to stand up to those schools and tell them to either follow the rules or change them.

A new commissioner must be prepared to accept criticism and not hold grudges when a parent or reporter disagrees.

Most important, the next commissioner must have the professionalism and communication skills to motivate people to work together.

High school sports has never been more popular, but there are limits to how far you can go to win. It will be up to the next commissioner to be a uniter, an enforcer and a visionary.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

twitter.com/LATSondheimer

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