BY PETE MOHR | JULY 28, 2010
Can newest ‘A.D.’ Rick Swearengin help Principal Steve Bebee return stability to CSHS?
His 24 years of administrative and coaching experience at all high school levels give him more than a running start
CSHS – Principal Steve Bebee and Athletic Director Rick Swearengin know me well enough to understand that employing “newest” in the headline for this article is employed for emphasis – encouraging, yet intentionally sarcastic. Consider: at the start of school year 2005-2006, Dr. Gay Leo was CSHS principal, and Pete Gerlach had just been selected as new athletic director.
Since that date, there have followed three principals and eight athletic directors – counting (in the latter category) Monica Barrett’s two “terms” as one and eliminating Rick Swearengin’s “unofficial” three days. As he begins his second full school year as CSHS principal, I’m convinced that Steve Bebee is committed (make that dedicated) to eliminating the instability that has understandably provoked derision and cynicism throughout the Foothills.
Other than his one emergency “A.D.” hire that didn’t work out, Steve Bebee can’t be held responsible for the “musical chairs” of the last five years; but rightly or wrongly, he’ll be looked to as the administrator responsible to affect a return to stability and continuity. Personally, I’m betting on Principal Bebee, because he will start the new year with his administrative team solidified and on-deck, ready to follow his leadership: Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Swearengin, Assistant Principal - Curriculum Jackie (Mrs. Scott) Beasley and newly-selected (late May) Dean of Students (discipline and attendance) Suzie Cary (her profile will appear next issue).
Rick Swearengin accepted Principal Bebee’s request to assume the athletic directorship. Swearengin believes that “the timing’s right to turn the tide.” First, he emphasizes, Cactus Shadows has “a rich tradition and history” of competitive athletics, founded primarily upon “good people – student-athletes, their coaches and parents.” He stresses the term “student-athletes,” who need to understand that athletic participation at CSHS “is a privilege – not a right.” He continues, “My job is to establish a clear vision and philosophy for our athletic programs that is based upon competing within the rules and following the A.I.A.’s fundamental principle of sportsmanship: ‘Pursuing Victory with Honor.’ We already compete with the best and shall continue to do so.”
On his to-do list is encouraging coaches to give increased recognition to their athletes, both past and current. One of the initiatives he’ll be promoting is to find more effective ways for coaches to promote their standout athletes for opportunities at the next level. And the parents said, “Amen!” He recognizes “that can’t – and won’t – happen overnight; but focusing on the need, I believe, is the right starting point.”
Swearengin, 48, is a native Phoenician. The oldest of Hannah Swearengin’s (“She’s a good Sicilian lady,” he praises) four children, Rick is the first college graduate on both sides of his family. After a freakish dartboard accident cost him sight in his right eye (thankfully restored in 1996 by a successful lens implantation), he transferred from Brophy to Camelback High, where he graduated in 1980. After his freshman year at Bethany Nazarene College in Oklahoma City, he entered Point Loma University in San Diego, from which he received his B.A. in Social Sciences in 1986. He acquired his teaching credentials at Point Loma while first coaching as a basketball graduate assistant.
There followed a succession of administrative and coaching stints, highlighted by two years at Maryvale (1990-1992) where he was the youngest basketball coach in 5A. He simultaneously earned his M.Ed. from University of Phoenix, with a certificate in Administrative Supervision. Swearengin held assistant principalships (and coaching positions) at North High, South Mountain and La Joya before moving to the Lincoln, Neb. area, where he became principal at nearby Wahoo High School.
Wanting to be closer to his two children, Zach and Kyndra, now 22 and 20, respectively, Swearengin returned to the Valley in 2006, becoming shortly thereafter an Assistant Principal-Discipline and Attendance at Cactus Shadows. His new position as Assistant Principal and Athletic Director was confirmed by CCUSD’s Board of Governors at the most recent July 12, 2010 meeting.
Nearing the end of our interview, I couldn’t restrain myself from asking the new A.D. the question for which I knew my readers would be most wanting an answer: “Rick, do you want to stay at Cactus Shadows?” His immediate answer was, “Absolutely!”
With his matured knowledge and experience as an educator/coach, I look for Rick Swearengin to be a successful athletic director. I can almost hear Falcon coaches cheering! Anyway, even with his wry sense of humor, the new A.D. is too old to play musical chairs.