Double Duty

January 29, 2015

Since the fall of 2012, whenever upstate New York rivals Elmira Express (a combined athletic program of the city's two high schools) and Horseheads High School compete against one another, you can find Tom Morrell rooting equally hard for each. He wears both teams' colors and stands straddling the midcourt or midfield line. The reason for Morrell's spirit split? He is the athletic director at both schools.

Two years ago, in an effort to stretch budgets, the separate school districts began examining how they might share administrators. Morrell, a former coach who was then serving as an assistant principal in the Elmira district, was asked if he would accept a position as the joint athletic director and physical education coordinator. He is technically a full-time employee of the Elmira City School District, and his services are contracted out to Horseheads.

With an office at both schools, which are five miles apart, Morrell makes sure his allegiances are divided equally, spending half his day at each location and scheduling his time very carefully. "For example, if each school has eight boys' soccer home games, I make sure I'm there for four of them," he explains. "Whenever the two schools play one another, I stand right in the middle and make a point of clapping for both teams and not cheering for either. I also wear a special shirt my wife made me--it has half Elmira colors and half Horseheads colors."

While change is on the way for Morrell--in January, he will return to Elmira full time to help the district's two high schools consolidate into one (their athletic programs combined forces four years ago)--he says he has enjoyed the challenge of the dual role. "I won't miss having to do two budgets and it will be nice to have just one office again, but I'll really miss working with the people at Horseheads," Morrell says. "It's been a lot of fun and I wouldn't trade the experience for anything.
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