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Mark Baker: Dayton athletics ‘in a better place than when I started’

Dayton Public Schools is moving district athletic director Mark Baker to a new role as associate director of truancy for 2018-19, and has named Shawna Welch to the athletic director role.

Baker has been at the center of two major Ohio High School Athletic Association sanctions in the past two school years, both involving Dunbar, where he was a star basketball player years ago.

LAST YEAR: School board gives embattled AD Baker contract extension

This spring, Dunbar used an ineligible player in the basketball postseason, was kicked out of the tournament, then successfully sued to get back in. But after ripping the OHSAA over its handling of the case, the district found out it had been wrong all along, and had to make a public apology last week.

Asked whether DPS agreed to remove Baker from the AD role to avoid further OHSAA penalties, Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said that was not the case.

“Absolutely no deals have been made with the OHSAA,” Lolli said in a statement emailed by district spokeswoman Marsha Bonhart.

THIS YEAR: Principal, Dayton AD Baker were reprimanded

OHSAA spokesman Tim Stried said his organization would not comment on the AD switch, other than to say it would have no bearing on Dayton Public Schools’ OHSAA probation.

“Mark Baker came to Dayton Public Schools with one purpose,” Lolli said. “That purpose was to serve the students here and to give back to the community that he grew up in. In either position he is able to achieve that purpose. Mr. Baker is excited to continue to be part of the district and to help students in his new capacity.”

Baker was hired in 2016, and months later Dunbar briefly tried to lose a football game on purpose, to engineer a certain playoff outcome. OHSAA singled out Baker for his role in that case, and on Thursday, Baker repeated his claim that some of the things said about him in that situation were not true.

RELATED: Crazy video shows Dunbar trying to throw a game

The entire school district was placed on three years of probation by the OHSAA in 2017 because of the football case, but weeks later, Dayton’s school board extended Baker’s contract as AD for two years.

Reached late Thursday, Baker said he is “definitely excited to be able to continue to work with students and families in our district” via the truancy role.

“You always want to be able to finish what you started,” Baker said. “But I feel real good that, contrary to conversations, the athletic department is in a better place than when I started.”

Baker said that’s because an operations manual and better compliance processes are in place, no money was missing this school year for the first time in four years, and students are achieving academically.

RELATED: DPS admits it was wrong about central fact in case

He said he will help Welch transition into the AD role, calling her an excellent administrator, and adding that he is confident Lolli and the school board will give Welch the support she needs to be successful.

Baker said if he could do one thing differently, it would be to make sure building level staffers were committed to the vision of the department. Asked if he should take personal responsibility for not making sure Dunbar basketball followed through on suspensions this year, he said, “No, I don’t think that responsibility falls to me, if I don’t know what’s going on in that situation.”

Welch has been principal of DPS’ Wright Brothers school in East Dayton for several years, both when it was an elementary school, and in its current middle school form. DPS leaders did not immediately answer questions on whether she has experience in athletic administration. Welch did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

MARCH 7: Dayton schools, OHSAA still in war of words

Thursday’s personnel news came in an email from Lolli to district staff, announcing numerous changes in administration, including new principals at several schools.

Lolli’s email also shows Sean Henry as the new principal at Dunbar High School, and does not list current Dunbar Principal Crystal Phillips as moving to any other principal assignment. Lolli said Phillips will remain with DPS, adding she has applied for other positions, and decisions on those are pending.

“The district is assuring that the right people are in the right positions,” Lolli said Thursday. “Several administrative moves have been made. We will likely have a few more to make before we have assembled the team that will help move the district forward academically.”

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