VARNELL, Ga.-The initial coaching staff at Coahulla Creek High School continued to take shape this week as six coaches were hired. At the same time, a vote by the Whitfield County Board of Education eased tensions at Northwest Whitfield High, where some students were facing the possibility of being forced to attend the new school.
County students have until April 29 to sign up to attend Coahulla Creek or remain at their current school, or in the case of eighth-graders, the school they had planned to attend.
The open enrollment is for this school year only, and students cannot change their minds after April 29. The ruling was met with relief at Northwest, where families had petitioned the school board to allow them to choose.
"I'm very relieved," Northwest softball coach Shane Ramsey said. "I was going to lose three [incoming freshmen], so it definitely helps us and it helps the kids. They often came to my office crying because they did not want to go. I think the board realized it's hard to uproot a 14-year-old and not have it affect them. Now they get to stay with their teammates and friends."
Chip Fleming, associate athletic director and track coach at Coahulla Creek, does not see the ruling adversely affecting the Colts programs. The school will field varsity teams in all sports except football for the 2011-12 season and compete in Region 7-AA. Football will compete with a junior varsity team this year and field a varsity team the following season.
"It's good for the kids at Northwest because they can stay if they want to," Fleming said. "You certainly don't want students having to come here if they don't want to. At the same time, the open enrollment has created a lot of excitement here. It's going to surprise some people how many students will come here. I know we gained a dozen kids just this morning for football workouts."
Fleming and recently appointed athletic director Jay Ashland also significantly added to their staff with the hirings of head coaches Michael Bolen (baseball), Rhett Parrott (softball), David Friend (girls' basketball), Julie Norton (volleyball), Ben Williams (boys' cross country) and Elizabeth Scroggs (girls' cross country). The school still needs to hire coaches for wrestling, soccer and boys' basketball.
Parrott is a former Northwest baseball star who pitched at Georgia Tech and five minor league seasons in the St. Louis Cardinals organization before injuries shortened his career at the Class AAA level. He will be an assistant coach in baseball with Bolen, who in turn will assist him in softball.
"I'm very excited about the opportunity," said Parrott, who was an assistant baseball coach at Duke University last year. "I've been looking for the opportunity to get back into baseball, and getting to work with Michael is great. Softball is new to me, but I'm sure my experience in baseball will help."
Bolen is now an assistant baseball coach at Northwest under Todd Middleton. The Meigs County High School graduate played at Lee University and has been at Northwest for three years. He believes the school board made the right decision to give students and their families a choice.
"There's a group at Northwest that want to be Bruins, and that's only right for them," he said. "But it's also going to work out for the kids who want to be a part of a new school. It's going to be a challenge for us to build the kind of tradition Northwest has, but the staff they're putting together can do it over time."