By Chris Teale (Courtesy photo)
Alexandria City Public Schools announced Monday the appointment of Mark Eisenhour as its new director of student activities as of January, to succeed the retiring Steve Colantuoni.
Currently one of two academic principals at the Minnie Howard campus of T.C. Williams, Eisenhour will oversee all extracurricular activities as well as athletic teams, training and competitive games at T.C. Williams and Alexandria’s middle schools.
The 1986 T.C. graduate is an Alexandria native and originally applied for the position eight years ago, only to lose out to Colantuoni. But with the current director retiring in January to become the full-time commissioner of the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference, Eisenhour has been promoted to the post.
“We want to welcome Mr. Eisenhour to this role,” said Schools Superintendent Alvin Crawley in a statement. “He has spent 25 years working in various capacities for ACPS and we know he will bring his commitment as well as his deep institutional knowledge to this position. Our community has a long history of athletic success and extracurricular opportunities for students.
“We are confident that with this appointment we can continue this tradition, as well as focusing on helping every student succeed academically.”
As a student, Eisenhour was a member of the crew team, and also participated in wrestling, cross country, indoor track and football before heading to Virginia Tech, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in history. After a stint in the U.S. Marine Corps, he returned to Alexandria and began as a substitute teacher before earning his master’s degree in special education.
He has held a variety of roles in his 25-year career with ACPS, including as an administrator at the Minnie Howard and King Street campuses of T.C. Williams.
In 2012, Eisenhour was principal on assignment during the Jefferson-Houston School construction project, and also managed the projects to install the new tennis courts and stadium landscaping at T.C. He helped establish the school’s athletic hall of fame in 2014, and said the relationships he built through sports were key in his development as a student.
“I was a member of the [sports] team and I would win the coach’s award for being the hard worker at practice and that sort of thing, but I was not winning awards for winning in a lot of things,” Eisenhour said. “But it’s what makes me proud to be a Titan. More than anything else, it’s those memories.
“I played a variety of sports, had some success on the water, but otherwise what I got out of it was the friendships and time management and having pride in the school.”
That school pride is something Eisenhour said he wants to instill further in every student, whether they participate in sports or other activities, or whether they are spectators. He said the more people who advocate for the school and its offerings, the more role models there will be in the community and for younger ACPS students.
“If you’re attending school because the law says you must attend school and school is not necessarily your favorite thing, you’ll comply and show up to school, but how are you adding to the school environment?” he said. “How can you model pride for younger students? If you’re a student and you start coming to school every day and going to the games and wearing Titans gear, maybe some of your friends are going to start doing that as well.”
Eisenhour said he wants to have more robust communications and marketing of sports programs, with a view to driving increased turnout at tryouts, games and other events that are hosted throughout the year. He said he wants to find programs that are successful at marketing themselves and try and imitate that success at programs that don’t have as robust attendance or participation.
He added that the partnerships with the city’s department of recreation, parks and cultural activities will continue to grow, as they have under Colantuoni’s leadership. With youth sports programs like the Alexandria Titans football teams and the Alexandria Soccer Association flourishing, Eisenhour said players can be funneled toward playing high school sports at a greater level.
“For example, I know that the football coach James Longerbeam has met many times with the youth football coaches and given them suggestions on what kinds of offenses to run and things that would prepare students at that young age to eventually become high school football players,” he said. “Just showing the interest in the local sports leagues so that those kids are more likely to want to participate for T.C. Williams in the future.”
Eisenhour said one of the biggest and most important challenge remains balancing athletics with academics. He said the student activities office must continue to be an asset in promoting academics as part of the overall high school experience, and must keep working to help those who struggle.
“I always found as an athlete I did better during the season because it forced me to organize my time, but that’s not the case across the board,” Eisenhour said. “I think finding ways to effectively engage the students, especially students that are struggling a little bit academically, you want sports to be a plus not something that takes away from their time.”
The Alexandria City School Board is slated to approve Eisenhour’s contract for his new position at its December 1 meeting.