No one was more surprised at Nate Baker landing the Wayne High School athletic director position on Tuesday night than himself.
“It has been a whirlwind, by all means,” said Baker, who was approved by the Huber Heights City Schools board of education as the new AD. “I know there’s a lot of moving parts and dynamics, but when it’s all said and done, to be the individual selected, I consider it an honor and I’m excited about it.”
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Baker’s hiring as Wayne’s AD was a surprise move. One day before, on Monday, former Dayton Public Schools director of athletics Jonas Smith had been listed on the school board agenda as being recommended by Huber Heights superintendent Susan Gunnell as the Wayne athletic director.
Later Monday, Smith’s name was replaced by Baker’s among the posted online agenda subjects.
On Wednesday, Smith said by email he had been contacted about applying for the Wayne position and like others, had gone through an interview process. He intends to remain at Cincinnati Withrow High School as the Director of Athletics for Activities Beyond the Classroom/Athletic Director.
“I want to make it very clear that I was not out looking for a new job,” Smith wrote. “I received several calls from people in the Dayton area including people in Huber Heights asking me to apply for the AD position at (Wayne). I believe God has a plan for all of us and this was not in his plan for me.”
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Gunnell also didn’t offer any insight as to the personnel change. “I don’t want to comment on that,” she said amid well-wishers after Tuesday’s board meeting, her last as superintendent.
Smith left DPS in 2016 after 12 years to become the athletic director at Bowling Green (Ohio) High School. He’s been the AD at Withrow since 2017.
Mark Baker and currently Shawna Welch succeeded Smith at DPS.
Smith also has served in various roles with the Ohio High School Athletic Association Southwest District, including president. He remains on the OHSAA’s Foundation Board of Trustees, Competitive Balance Committee and Diversity Committee.
Gunnell will be succeeded as superintendent later this month by Mario Basora, currently the Yellow Springs School District superintendent.
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Baker leaves Yellow Springs High School, where he also was the athletic director, for Wayne. He succeeded Steve Rossi as the Yellow Springs AD in 2014. Rossi has since been the athletic director at Cincinnati Roger Bacon High School.
Yellow Springs, located off State Route 68 between Springfield and Xenia, is among the state’s smallest schools for enrollment. The Ohio High School Athletic Association lists the Greene County school with 84 boys (grades 9-12) and 98 girls. Yellow Springs has neither football, golf, nor wrestling.
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The Wayne AD position opened when Gunnell did not recommend the rehiring of longtime AD Jay Minton last spring. That move caused a stir among Wayne sports patrons who were loyal to Minton, also the Warriors highly successful varsity football coach. Several angrily protested during that May school board meeting.
Minton instead accepted a newly created position as a middle school physical education instructor. Last month he resigned from coaching and Wayne grad Roosevelt Mukes was promoted to the football head coach.
“It’s absolutely an honor,” Baker said. “I very much look forward to the transition and the opportunity to flourish in an athletic department like Wayne. It’s the history, the great alumni, it’s a responsibility I take very seriously and look forward to.”
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• Mukes is a celebrated 1985 Wayne grad and record-setting receiver at the University of Cincinnati. An elementary school teacher, he’s been employed by the school district for 25 years and been on the football coaching staff for nearly as long.
“It’s definitely a blessing,” said Mukes, who was introduced to the public during Tuesday’s board meeting. “Of course, you wish the circumstances could have been different, but ultimately, it’s about the kids and community.”
Wayne (7-4 last season) hosts Cincinnati Colerain (14-1) in the Week 1 Backyard Blitz on Friday, Aug. 30. Colerain lost to Lake St. Edward in the D-I state championship last season.
“The staff and I, we’re really looking forward to this challenge,” Mukes said. “Tradition doesn’t graduate.”
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