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Jackson's first weeks on the job

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By Jonathan Stark

For the past few weeks, Kevin Jackson has been arriving at Vandalia Community High School at 6 a.m. He lets himself in and heads for his office, a 10-foot-by-10-foot room not far from the gymnasium.
In one corner of his office, he has his desk with a computer; in the other corner, a two-drawer file cabinet.  Behind his desk on a bulletin board are the schedules for the five fall sports in which VCHS participates.
The schedules loom over his shoulder as he works the phones, confirming contests with other athletic directors and confirming officials for the events, months and even years down the road.
Jackson has only been on the job as the athletic director for few weeks, but he's already settled in to his new duties.
"Everything has been fine," Jackson said. "Coach (Mike) Butler (former high school athletic director) and Coach (Geri) Reuss (former junior high athletic director) did a good job. They had everything done, organized and right. It's just a matter of me getting acclimated and getting an understanding of where we're sending teams and when, getting with officials and making sure their dates match up with the dates I have."
This isn't Jackson's first rodeo. He was the athletic director at St. Elmo High School for a number of years before coming to Vandalia.
"It's just more–more sports, more budget issues, bigger budget issues," he said. "It's just more sports; not all are the same, but it's still working with more coaches and working with more athletes. It's just organization and just more to it."
One big issue has been the budget. The athletic budget was cut by a third this year.
Jackson knows the big cut in his budget is no different than any other school district in the state or even the country. He's positive about the situation, knowing that uniforms may have to last an extra season or that a team may have to go without something it wants.
Even with the major budget cuts, the athletic department has a backer that many other programs have, the sports boosters.
"The booster club has been tremendous for a lot of years," Jackson said. "They provide our athletes with a ton, junior high and high school."
In last month's meeting alone, the booster club approved more that $5,500 worth of athletic equipment, and that's on top of more than $2,000 worth in the each of the two prior meetings.
Jackson has also been working on finding a new high school golf coach. The district recently hired Brandon Taylor.
"Taylor's excited, energetic, enthusiastic. He likes to play golf and loves the game," Jackson said of the newest addition to the VCHS coaching staff.
He has also been working on this year's inductees to the Vandalia Athletics Hall of Fame. Following nominations, the candidates were voted on and will be announced at homecoming on Sept. 24.
Compliance is a major concern at the college level and at some high schools, but it's not so much for Vandalia, simply because Vandalia goes by the book.
"We're not cheating. I don't see it as a big deal. No one has ever said a word to me about what we do," Jackson said.
When Jackson was named as the athletic director-in-waiting earlier this year, the school district also decided to bring the junior high under his responsibility. Prior to this year, junior high and high school athletics operated separately, but not anymore. This adds about 10 more teams to his workload throughout the year.
"I'm going to have to make a solid effort to get over to the junior high," Jackson said. "There's going to need to be an effort on both sides, by me and them, to communicate well. I don't foresee any issues, but it's different now without an AD in the junior high all the time."
When Jackson was named the athletic director, it wasn't known how much of his day would be spent as a driver's education instructor and how much would be spent as an AD. And it still hasn't been determined. If he had to guess, it'd be somewhere around 50-50 or 60-40, but it looks as if it will be more of a fluid balance–driving when students need to drive, and organizing Vandalia's athletics the rest of the time.
With the baseball and softball fields being upgraded into quality fields, the last hurdle for Vandalia is bringing an all-weather track to the district.
"We've been pursuing funds for an all-weather track for several years" Jackson said. "We want to keep pushing in that direction. An all-weather track is going to benefit not only our athletes, but the community as well."
Other than the track, Jackson doesn't have many big plans that he wants to see happen.
"I just want all of our athletes and coaches to keep pushing to be as good as they can," he said.