EAST PROVIDENCE — At a special session of the East Providence School Committee Monday evening, Sept. 23, in the City Hall Chamber long-time teacher and sports administrator Bob Duarte was confirmed as the system’s new athletic director.
Mr. Duarte, 49 and a 25-year veteran of the classroom as a history instructor at East Providence High School, late last week was chosen from a group of three in-house candidates who sought the post vacated by the recent resignation of Paul Amaral. Mr. Amaral held the job for seven full school terms.
“I’m very excited to start a new beginning in my life. I really can’t wait to get started,” said Mr. Duarte, whose first official day on the job was slated to be Wednesday, Sept. 25. At that time he will take over the AD duties while Mr. Amaral returns to the classroom as a health and physical education teacher at EPHS.
“It’s a kind of a dream come true for me,” Mr. Duarte continued. “I didn’t think I’d ever get the job here in East Providence, so I’m just really, really excited to get started.”
Mr. Duarte, a 1982 EPHS graduate, served as Mr. Amaral’s assistant athletic director for the same seven-year period of time. In addition, he has for nearly two decades been a track/cross country coach at the high school. Mr. Duarte guided mostly EPHS female teams to several division and class titles. His 1994 team won the girls’ indoor track state title while his ’96 Townies won the girls’ outdoor track state championship.
He is currently boys’ cross country coach this fall. He also remains for the moment as the girls’ indoor and outdoor coach. It is likely, however, Mr. Duarte will have to relinquish those duties for the upcoming winter and spring seasons, though no decision had as of yet been made on the matter.
“I don’t think to do the job justice you can coach, especially not all three seasons (fall, winter, spring),” Mr. Duarte said of his coaching future. “I would, though, like to finish the cross country season. I’d like to see out the year with these guys. They’ve put in a lot of work. After that, I probably won’t be coaching anymore, but I’ll still be around to help out when and where I can.”
Upon taking over the position, Mr. Duarte inherits an athletic department in a state of transition. The entirety of EPHS sports programs is currently on probation for the year by the Interscholastic League after multiple clerical errors allowed an ineligible player to compete during the 2012-13 winter season. Also, the continued decrease in the number of students at the high school has thinned the ranks of athletes across all EPHS teams, making it ever more difficult for the Townies to compete against the state’s top programs.
On the positive side, middle school sports, which were curtailed by the Budget Commission last year, have been proposed to return in the Fiscal Year 2013-14 Budget presented by Superintendent Kim Mercer. She did so during the same evening and meeting as recommending Mr. Duarte as the new AD to the School Committee.
“It’s definitely a good thing for the city to have middle school sports back. We’re trying to keep as many of the good athletes in the city as we can. We lose far too many to the private schools. Hopefully, having middle school sports back is another way we can keep those kids in the public schools,” Mr. Duarte said.
And over the last year-plus, the high school facilities, long in need of aid, have been bolstered to some extent by the efforts of both those inside and out of the system. Softball coach Rob Traverse spurred the revitalization of the diamond on the high school grounds, once again making it a worthy host for varsity play. City native and young philanthropist John Carnevale led a group of devoted locals who raised funds necessary to refurbish the two high school gyms and other athletic support facilities.
“One of my goals is to continue to update our facilities. The softball field was the first to get done and then the gym. We have some very good facilities now, including Pierce Field, but we need better places for practice and to prepare the kids. We just have to keep going. We have to keep fundraising, reaching out for private donations. We have to keep improving our facilities so we can make our student athletes and our teams the best they can be,” Mr. Duarte added.
Part of making the EPHS students athletes as good as they can be is making sure they receive quality instruction. The recent 60 percent cut to coaches’ salaries has opened the door to the possibility of some choosing to seek better paying positions elsewhere. Mr. Duarte is hoping that won’t happen any time soon.
“This is a tremendous opportunity to work with the outstanding coaches we have on staff here at the high school,” he said. “We have to find a way to hold onto the coaches we have. I don’t want to see people leave because we don’t pay as well as other places. Obviously, the budget is what it is at this point. It’s my job now to help the coaches out wherever I can, give them and the athletes the things they need to be successful.”
Other initiatives Mr. Duarte would like to implement include among various items, increasing the level of promotion the department does for its athletes, coaches and teams, bringing back some form of video coverage of EPHS sports whether it be online or on television, and assisting athletes more during the college recruiting process.
“We have some tremendous challenges ahead,” Mr. Duarte concluded. “I’m just really excited to have this opportunity. I’m really looking forward to the future.”