Baca named to top Belen Schools athletics post

........................................................................................................................................................................................

Belen Consolidated Schools moved fairly quickly after the move of Athletic Coordinator Rodney Wright from that position to principal at Belen High School, officially naming Valencia County resident Jason Baca as Wright's replacement on July 18.

Baca was one of five finalists, four of whom interviewed for the job, which came open May 7 when Wright accepted the BHS principal position. Wright took over the principal's job on July 1.

Baca served most recently as principal for the The Great Academy charter school in Albuquerque. But before that, Baca served as athletic coordinator for Los Lunas High School and Valencia High School in the Los Lunas Schools from 2009 to 2012.

Wright, who chaired the search committee that sent its final recommendation to Superintendent Ron Marquez for approval, said Baca's past success was a factor in his being hired.

"We really felt that Jason certainly brings experience in the position already having spent part of his time over in the Los Lunas School District as a coordinator," said Wright. "It's certainly helpful to have that experience working with coaches, in programs and with the (New Mexico Activities Association)."

Eleven people applied for the position, with six finalists being chosen for a final interview, said Wright. The number fell to four after one candidate dropped out the day of interviews and another accepted a position in another district.

Joining Baca in the final interviews were three other applicants living in the county — Barbara Rodriguez, former Belen High head volleyball coach and current Title IX compliance officer, Rebecca Dominguez, a Belen district athletic trainer, and Amy Fink-McCarty, a Belen resident currently principal at Annunciation Catholic School in Albuquerque.

Marquez said Baca had also applied for the Belen High Principals position, which ultimately was offered to and accepted by Wright. But Marquez said Baca was a handful of principal candidates that were then asked to apply for the athletic coordinator position.

Based on resumes obtained by the News-Bulletin, Baca and Rodriguez were the only applicants who have their administrative licence from the state, something Wright said was one of the reasons to Baca being offered the position.

"We felt (Baca) would be a good fit for Belen and continue to promote athletics in a positive way and continue with the positive growth we've seen over last couple years," he said.

Baca's hiring dovetails with a change by the district that will place the athletic coordinator position under the supervision of the Belen High principal rather than the superintendent, as it had been before.

Marquez said the administrative change had been considered before the hiring, but was cemented by Wright's hiring as BHS principal.

"They're both on campus so it made sense in that respect," Marquez said. "Mr. Wright know what's needed both at Belen High and at Belen Middle School. We also felt we needed to make a major rule in public appearances and now Mr. Wright can do that while Jason does his job running athletic events.

Baca, who played football and graduated from New Mexico State University and earned his master's degree in educational leadership from the University of New Mexico, said two things factored into his wanting the athletic coordinator position job.

"The things that attracted me most were the tradition and pride in community, especially with the athletic program itself," he said. "There's a lot of support at Belen High and a great tradition, and I wanted to be part of that."

Baca said his year away from athletics went well but having been around athletics all his life, he felt the urge to get involved again.

"It's a passion of mine," he said of athletics. "It teaches so many thing to students in life, a lot of life lessons."

Baca said student-athletes themselves were a big motivator for him as an administrator too.

"I feel what I bring to the program is the experience not only as athletic coordinator as well as a player and a coach," he said. "Being the athlete transitioning to coach then being athletic coordinator gave me a well-rounded background to help with leadership and keep programs moving in right direction."

Baca said one of his aims is to make students "the best they can be."

"I want to do right for kids as well," he said. "I feel that when you make decisions based on the kids, you can't go wrong.

Wright said he thought Baca would bring a different perspective to the position.

"New people sometimes can bring new ideas and a new approach," Wright said. "I know I will continue to work closely with Jason in a supporting role, a guidance role if he needs it."

Baca said he was grateful for the opportunity and the support of the district and community.

"My main focus is to help all our programs keep having success and moving upward," Baca said. "The entire district is so supportive of the program and what it does for students and the pride it brings to the school and the city," he said. "It's a great opportunity."