Dave Hembach has visited Stone Bridge High School a few times over the past year, but the trip he made Thursday to the new school in Ashburn was slightly different than the previous ones. This time, Hembach could visualize the school taking shape -- here's the wrestling room, there's the auxiliary gym -- and his role in shaping the school.
Hembach, who has been the athletic director at Park View High School since 1994, has been named the athletic director at Stone Bridge, effective July 1. His appointment was approved Tuesday by the Loudoun County School Board. Stone Bridge, Loudoun's sixth high school, will open in September 2000.
"It was a tough decision. I think back to five years ago, when I was a track and cross-country coach and teaching earth science [at Park View]. Life was easy, and then I made the decision to jump into the AD position," said Hembach, who spent 14 years at the Sterling school. "Now, five years later, Park View is easy -- we have great coaches and great support from the parents. It's time to face a new challenge, and I think it will be a lot of fun opening a new school."
Plenty of challenges await Hembach at Stone Bridge. The mascot and school colors need to be chosen, uniforms and equipment need to be ordered, and schedules need to be made. Coaches have to be hired, though Hembach doesn't anticipate that happening until the end of the calendar year.
"I think the first challenge is getting quality coaches. It's very important to have quality coaches, who have some experience," said Hembach, who will continue to work with Principal James E. Person, who is leaving Park View after eight years to move to Stone Bridge. "The second thing is getting the kids to believe in their new school. Jim will be in charge of the academic side, and I'll do the athletic side. We want the kids to be happy and proud to be at Stone Bridge."
Hembach, 45, is leaving Park View a little earlier than he had planned. When Hembach called his coaches Tuesday to inform them of his new position, he told them he wouldn't be moving to Stone Bridge until January 2000 and thus would be around for the fall season.
But the School Board voted Tuesday to fund the Stone Bridge athletic director position for a full year, as opposed to a half-year, and changed Hembach's start date to July 1. Hembach spent Wednesday calling his coaches to tell them of the change.
"It's kind of strange, because there's not really any closure," Hembach said. "But I think that in the long run, the timing is better for both schools. [Potomac Falls Athletic Director] Charlie Lutman said that you really need a year to get a school ready, and I believe him. I've only been doing this for five years, and he's been doing it for 30."
Lutman began working at Potomac Falls in January 1997, and the school opened later that year in September. Potomac Falls Principal E. Wayne Griffith recommended to the School Board that Stone Bridge's athletic director position be funded for a full year.
"We originally had that in our budget. However, when we made the budget cuts at the end of the cycle, one of the first things to go was the funding for the new positions," board Chairman Joseph W. Vogric said. "But based on the recommendations of Wayne Griffith, [new Park View Principal] Anne Brooks and Jim Person, we took another look at the situation on Tuesday, and we found the money."
Hembach is eager to start working at Stone Bridge -- he already has some ideas for potential mascots -- but said it will be hard to leave Park View. Patriot softball coach Beth Walker said it will be hard to see Hembach leave.
"I'm thrilled for him, but I'm sad for us," said Walker, who has coached at Park View since the school opened in 1976. "He really cares about the coaches and the kids. I remember the year we lost in the state softball final , Dave was so thrilled that we had the chance to host the game, and he worked hard to get the field ready. When we lost, he was one of the first people over to talk to the girls. He's just a nice guy who's in the job for the right reasons."
The coaches aren't the only ones who are sad to see Hembach leave.
"My 6-year-old didn't want me to leave Park View," Hembach said of his son Danny. "He said that he's going to go to all the Stone Bridge-Park View games, but he's going to cheer for Park View. I told him that was okay."
CAPTION: Nelson Stickley (44) charges ahead for Park View, which needs a new athletic director after Dave Hembach announced he would be leaving job he held since 1994.