WORDS FOR THE BOYS: Samohi head coach Travis Clark talks to his team after losing to Mater Dei last week at Corsair Field. (Paul Alvarez Jr. editor@www.smdp.com)

Following the departure of Travis Clark as Santa Monica High School’s head football coach, the local school district will accept applications for the position from outside the campus or district, rekindling debate over the district’s hiring practices for sports coaches.

The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District will soon post the open position and begin its selection process, a controversial topic in the community following the dismissal of Samohi baseball coach Kurt Schwengel last year.

Clark recently resigned after six years at the helm to become the football coach at Lawndale. He works in television and film production and was not a full-time employee of the school district.

“We want the best coach possible,” district spokeswoman Gail Pinsker said of the vacancy created by Clark. “We’re not only looking at somebody filling that position from within. We’re looking for the best candidate.”

The nature of the search for Clark’s replacement stands in contrast to district officials’ stated position on coaches after the dismissal of Schwengel, who was asked not to return after two successful seasons with the Samohi baseball team.

SMMUSD superintendent Sandra Lyon said at the time that the district sought to replace Schwengel with someone who already held a position on campus.

“In looking ahead, the school has determined that, at this time, it is in the best interest of the program to have a coach who is also a member of the teaching staff,” Lyon said at the time.

School administrator Elias Miles echoed Lyon’s sentiment after science teacher Loren Drake was named the Vikings’ baseball coach in June.

“In order to provide even better support for our baseball players and create a more efficient and effective coordination of services for our baseball program,” Miles wrote in a message to families, “we are moving to having school-based head and assistant coaches.”

Schwengel, who remains a kindergarten teacher at Franklin Elementary School, declined to comment. His ousting followed his now-infamous protest of a playoff opponent’s use of Wiffle balls for batting practice, a rule violation that forced the opponent to forfeit after winning the game.

Tony Todd, a Samohi alumnus who served as an assistant baseball coach under Schwengel, criticized the district for its hiring process, saying the district is acting hypocritically.

“This is something the whole community is really upset over,” he said. “It’s sad. Those kids were so upset about the firing of Schwengel. It shouldn’t matter if they’re on campus or off campus. It should go to the best person for the job.”

James Makris, Pat Dunn and Douglas Kim are overseeing the football program as the district searches for a new head coach, Pinsker said.

Dunn and Kim work full-time in the district as teachers in math and social studies, respectively. Kim is currently listed on the team’s website as director of football operations.

Makris, who has served as an assistant coach for the Vikings, is an art director and not a full-time district employee.

Two current varsity coaches, Corey Prost and Wilston Poon, are not full-time district employees, according to a Daily Press analysis. Prost, a Samohi alumnus, recently finished his first season at the helm of the boys soccer team. Poon runs the Vikings’ boys and girls tennis programs.

Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, jeff@www.smdp.com or on Twitter.

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