Farmington AD has to hit the ground running

Tschida a month into his new job

Bill Tschida took over as Farmington High School’s athletics and activities director in late August. (Photo courtesy of Farmington Area Public Schools)
Bill Tschida took over as Farmington High School’s athletics and activities director in late August. (Photo courtesy of Farmington Area Public Schools)

]The notion that Farmington is a metro-area suburb sometimes amuses Bill Tschida.

To many people, the term “suburb” conjures up images of housing developments, strip malls and convenience stores as far as the eye can see.

“When I look out the window of my office,” Tschida said, “I see a bean field.”

His office is at Farmington High School, where he’s been an assistant principal in charge of athletics and activities for a little more than one month. There are some houses near the high school, located a couple miles west of downtown Farmington, but otherwise it’s surrounded by farmland.

Some of the rural roots remain, but there’s no mistaking where things are headed for the school district. More than 33,000 people live within the School District 192 boundaries, and more than 1,700 students in grades 9-12 attend Farmington High School. According to Minnesota State High School League figures, that makes FHS the 23rd-largest high school in the state.

Tschida has taken charge of an athletics and activities program that’s making a transition. The school will join the South Suburban Conference in time for the 2014-15 school year. The Missota Conference, Farmington’s current league, is disbanding after the current school year, with its members fanning out to join other conferences. Shakopee and Farmington, the two largest schools in the Missota, are going to the South Suburban to replace Bloomington Kennedy and Bloomington Jefferson, which are leaving for the new Metro West Conference.

It’s Tschida’s job to continue steering the transition to Farmington’s new, all-suburban-school league. The process started under his predecessor, Jon Summer, who took an assistant principal’s position at Chaska High School over the summer.

“I’ll be at Missota and South Suburban Conference meetings all year,” Tschida said. “I just attended my second South Suburban ADs meeting (last week). I’m getting an idea of how the conference will function. The biggest thing is learning how our programs match up with the rest of the South Suburban schools.”

The fit is almost never perfect, but in Farmington’s case it’s close. FHS has varsity teams in all the South Suburban Conference activities except Alpine and Nordic skiing. One of the challenges is finding games for lower-level teams. Tschida said he learned that many SSC football programs have two 10th-grade teams, while Farmington has one. He said he was told the conference has been able to work around those differences in the past.

The biggest question might be how Farmington will stack up athletically against the other schools in one the state’s strongest conferences. “I think in a lot of sports we’ll be competitive right away,” Tschida said. “Some programs might need a little more TLC, but we’re prepared to do that.”

When Farmington and Shakopee join the South Suburban, it will give the conference two schools that opened in the 19th Century. Tschida’s family has long-standing ties to the Farmington district. His grandmother, who’s 102, is a member of the Farmington High School Class of 1929.

That wasn’t the only reason he came to the district. “It’s a challenge, career-wise, because it’s a much larger school district,” he said. “Here, we could have four different teams playing at four different sites.”

Tschida had been principal at Holy Trinity High School (enrollment: 86) in Winsted, Minn., since 2007. The school sponsored athletics as part of a cooperative with Lester Prairie. Tschida had been head volleyball coach for the co-op and worked with the team for 2 1/2 weeks before leaving for his new job in Farmington.

Before Holy Trinity, he worked as an administrator at several other Minnesota schools, including Adrian, Sleepy Eye-St. Mary’s and Watertown-Mayer. He also has coaching experience in baseball, volleyball and hockey.

Tschida was hired at Farmington a week before school started and had to hit the ground running. “A lot of people to meet, a lot of names to know,” he said. “That’s ongoing.”

There’s been no time to create a long-range plan for his vision of Farmington athletics and activities. Tschida said he does, however, hope to help with fundraising for the various programs. One thing for which fundraising could help is an irrigation system for the high school’s practice fields, which were becoming parched before last week’s rains.

In the short term, though, his goal is to keep FHS smoothly on course toward its new conference.