Mike Sirko is new AHS coach | AspenTimes.com

Mike Sirko is new AHS coach

John ColsonAspen, CO Colorado

Bryan Oller/The Gazette

ASPEN In a move some observers say was calculated to ward off controversy and minimize criticism, the Aspen School District on Friday afternoon announced that Mike Sirko has been selected to be the new Aspen High School football coach.Sirko, 53, is the husband of the district’s superintendent, Diana Sirko, and was a celebrated coach of high school football in the Colorado Springs area, where the couple lived before Mrs. Sirko took the Aspen job.The selection follows a week of consideration that Athletic Director Carol Sams said included 16 initial candidates for the post, which pays approximately $4,300 per year. According to a short announcement sent to The Aspen Times sports desk, the committee “reviewed applications from candidates around the state and across the country.” Sams said that was after a search committee had narrowed it down to four final candidates, one of whom dropped out.The committee interviewed three finalists and Sirko was offered the post and he accepted, the statement declared, adding, “His knowledge and enthusiasm will be a valuable asset to our athletic program.” Sirko has 31 years of coaching experience, most recently at the 5A Doherty High School in Colorado Springs, from which he retired last spring.

The district has refused to divulge the names of those applying for the job, although it is known that perennial local political candidate Andrew Kole applied and was not called for an interview. Kole said of the timing of the announcement was curious. “Let’s see, Friday night, late, X Games in full swing? They don’t want to hear anything” from critics of the process.As for the district’s refusal to release the names and qualifications of others who applied, based on what the superintendent said was advice from an attorney, Kole said, “That’s nonsense. They could absolutely release it.”Although upset that he was not called for an interview, Kole conceded, “Maybe Mike was the most qualified applicant, I don’t know.”Sirko’s name first arose in connection with the coaching job in late 2006. That was when the superintendent, at a meeting with former coach Travis Benson, AHS Principal Charlie Anastas and Sams, suggested Benson consider stepping down to the level of assistant coach so that Sirko could be brought in to “mentor” the coaching staff.

Benson, a popular coach who had improved the team’s record recently, declined the offer and resigned instead, prompting criticism of the district administration from some teachers and members of the community who felt Benson had been pressured to quit, and accused Sirko of nepotism.The superintendent’s actions also went against a directive from the school board, according to an explanation given to teachers by School Board President Laura Kornasiewicz.Kornasiewicz told teachers at a mid-December meeting that the school board had met with Sirko and advised her to not attend a planned meeting between Benson, Anastas and Sams, and to not get involved in suggesting that Benson think about stepping down to make way for Mike Sirko.But Kornasiewicz and other board members also said they supported Sirko’s “actions and intentions” in the matter.Mike Sirko, reached at home on Friday, said he has no plans to take a teaching position with the Aspen district, but that “the bottom line is, I’m just excited to be working with kids again.”

He said he plans to meet with kids interested in playing football as soon as possible “and get an off-season program going.” He said he plans to “get the kids working out, learning a few football skills, getting stronger and faster.”It is important to “develop a feeling of camaraderie in the weight room,” he said.As for the controversy that surrounded Benson’s departure and his selection, Sirko said, “It’s not about all that, it’s about the kids. I’m sorry about how it happened, and I’m just going to try to do my very best. The way it was supposed to be, it didn’t end up that way.”I know the kids loved and respected their coach,” he continued, but he feels that now that the process has been resolved “they want to get going, they want to move on.”John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com

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