The Henlopen Conference will have two new athletic directors this fall, and a third is fighting to keep his job.
The Capital School District approved Jeff Savage to lead the athletic program at Dover High at its board meeting on July 18. The Lake Forest School District is expected to name a replacement for Mike Wagner at its board meeting on Thursday. And Sussex Tech athletic director Joe Thomson is facing an Aug. 14 hearing in an attempt to keep his job after the Sussex Technical School District declined to renew his contract in June.
Savage has served as softball coach at Delaware State University since 2000, but will leave that job to become Dover AD. He replaces Eric Torbert, who served for seven years. Torbert said Thursday that he will remain as a full-time teacher in the Capital School District, but has yet to receive his assignment for this school year.
"We feel really good about him," Dr. Michael Thomas, Capital School District superintendent, said of Savage. "He's highly motivated to get going, and we certainly feel he will provide good leadership throughout the athletic program."
Savage enjoyed his time at DSU, but is excited to get back into high school athletics. Delaware State has not announced Savage's departure or plans to replace him.
"I taught public school for 16 years at various places in Delaware and out of Delaware," Savage said. "I've taught at all levels - elementary schools, middle schools, high schools. ... And I've coached just about everything at some level."
Wagner stepped down as Lake Forest AD in June, but the move is not effective until Aug. 17. His wife recently accepted a full-time job at Polytech, and with one daughter entering high school and another entering middle school, he wanted to shift some priorities.
"It's a good time for me to step back from athletics and be a teacher full time and spend more time with my family," Wagner said.
Wagner served as athletic director for 10 years. He will be a full-time driver education teacher at Lake Forest and will remain in athletics in a limited role as executive secretary of the Delaware Athletic Directors Association.
At Sussex Tech, Thomson said he was informed by principal Dr. John Demby that his contract would not be renewed on June 21.
He has appealed the decision, and a public hearing will be held at 10 a.m. Aug. 14 at the Sussex Technical School District office.
"The administration had given the board their opinion on a few things that I guess we would have to agree to disagree on," Thomson said. "They gave the board a very one-sided explanation of the story, and as I said to my legal counsel, all I would like to do is have my voice heard."
Thomson has held the position since 2005. Two days after hearing from Demby, he was named the Delaware Association of Athletic Directors' athletic director of the year.
"I love Sussex Tech. I've given them eight years of very hard work," Thomson said. "I love the coaching staff and the kids and the teachers, and it's just unfortunate that I guess some people had other agendas."
Thomson said a hearing officer will listen to testimony from both sides and report to the school board at a later date. As of Friday, the athletic director's position was posted on the district's website as an "anticipated vacancy announcement," with an Aug. 1 deadline for applications. District superintendent Dr. A.J. Lathbury did not return a phone message seeking comment.
Thomson is a member of the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association board of directors and the DIAA officials committee. He said he plans to continue to serve in both of those roles, even if he is not retained at Sussex Tech.