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Administration is failing the kids at New London ... again

New London — And so Larry Washington is in the news again, back on administrative leave for the second time since May, according to an e-mail New London school superintendent Cynthia Ritchie sent to the Board of Education last week.

Ritchie had recently named Mr. Washington, the former director of the STEM magnet program at the Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School, the districtwide director of health and physical education K-12 and athletic director at the high school. The change in position was part of Ritchie's "restructuring" of administrators before the start of the new school year.

Mr. Washington's latest transgression may be no transgression at all. At least not one that has merit. Ritchie's e-mail said the leave allows for "an internal investigation of a claim that came forward."

This internal investigation, however, does not change Ritchie's shortsightedness in naming Mr. Washington the athletic director in the first place. He is simply not qualified, possessing neither the background nor the credentials to oversee a historic and perpetual source of pride within the school and the city.

A number of athletic directors within the Eastern Connecticut Conference have privately questioned Mr. Washington's background, noting that he has little to no coaching experience at the high school level and believe he lacks experience in the vagaries of the job: hiring, firing and critiquing coaches, intricate scheduling and eligibility issues and the demands of long and sometimes odd hours.

Moreover, some school system employees have told me Ritchie intends to bring in someone to "mentor" Mr. Washington, all but admitting he's not ready for the job. And for this, he is being paid a salary of $131,748, more than the salaries of most athletic directors across the state.

Why was Mr. Washington given this job for which he is not qualified? Good question. My guess is that they didn't have anywhere else to put him in the administrative tree. That's part of another problem — but, alas, an argument for another day.

Meanwhile, there's this: Athletics have a mythical allure and charm at New London High. It's a Whaler thing. And leaving the programs who have authored all those big, green state championship banners in the hands of a novice is an insult to the proudest high school athletic traditional of them all around here.

Ritchie needs to reach out and find a competent interim who at least has experience in hiring coaches. Because New London has two important hires to make soon: girls' basketball and baseball. There is no way — none — a man with no experience should be entrusted with the responsibility.

Girls' basketball has become a marquee sport here, playing for state championships before huge crowds at Mohegan Sun and perhaps more importantly, giving girls such a positive outlet within the community and region. It's been rewarding for us here at The Day to tell the stories of Charee Osborne, India and Tai Pagan, Jada Lucas, Spencer Roman and others.

Baseball is a six-time state champion whose 2019 season ended in turmoil. The program needs stability and discipline. This won't be an easy hire. Once again: There is no way — none — a man with no experience should be entrusted with the responsibility.

League athletic directors tell me that communication between the New London athletic department and the rest of the ECC has been — to be kind here — limited in recent weeks. Many e-mail inquiries; few answers forthcoming. Not acceptable. I'm even told they've had to scramble to find someone to take over the cross country program and that a meet may have to be forfeited because the program was totally ignored until recently.

This is how we do business?

Let me once again remind everybody in and out of this city who cares about the Whalers of something: This is about the kids. Nobody else. This is about making decisions in the best interests of the kids. The kids. The voiceless. The kids: who entrust us with a light for their way.

Hence, I'm not interested in whether people think this is unfair because Mr. Washington is a nice guy. He might be. I don't know him. What I care about is that the kids and coaches who participate in a historically important outlet at New London High are ensured proper leadership.

It's not Larry Washington.

This needs to be fixed.

It's a Whaler thing.

And the Whalers deserve better.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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