MADISON, NJ - Madison district’s Director of Athletics Sean Dowling had a head-spinning week in March: on March 14 he was honored as the Athletic Director of the year by The Directors of Athletics Association of New Jersey (DAANJ) at a banquet and on March 19 he was advised by District Superintendent Mark Schwarz that his position as Athletic Director was being terminated as of the end of the school year.

The Directors of Athletics Association of New Jersey is the professional organization for New Jersey high school athletic administrators. The DAANJ works closely with the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association to promote interscholatic athletic programs in the state. Currently there are over 300 active high athletic directors and over 100 retired athletic directors who are registered as members of the DAANJ. Dowling previously was awarded the 2016 DAANJ Robert Hopek Professional Development Award, the 2015 NIAAA Distinguished Service Award, and the 2014 DAANJ Sectional Award of Merit.

Dowling has been the Director of Athletics for the borough since 2006. He came to Madison with a masters from Adelphi University in Sports Management with an emphasis on Athletic Administration and years of coaching at various times lacrosse, football, ice hockey, and basketball at Oyster Bay High School, Elizabeth High School, Morristown-Beard School, Columbia High School, Summit High School. Dowling has a B.A. in mathematics and taught math at several of these high schools.

Sign Up for E-News

Among his responsibilities in the position of Director of Athletics are hiring the coaching staff, advising the Madison Student-Athlete Leadership Council, which he initiated, organizing Meet the Coaches night, creating a Community Service initiative for the sports teams, event management and facilities management. In addition, he serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Madison Athletic Foundation. He is the president of the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference, which oversees 39 schools. He is also Assistant State Leadership Training & Certification Coordinator for the National Interscholastic Administrators of NIAAA. He believes that his volunteer service on the NJIAA, DAANJ and NHSIAA benefits Madison, the county, conference, and state.  

Dowling states that “Madison athletics have developed strongly in the past 14 years and it is recognized as a successful athletic program. Winning is a pleasant by-product of what we’re trying to do here: instill work ethics, commitment, character, and reinforcement of values parents have introduced.” He finds it “cool that every year a different team may win a championship.” He oversees the second or third largest group of students in the district, that is, the student athletes who make up 40 to 45% of the student population.  

Dowling would like to finish his career in education in Madison. He states that Superintendent Schwarz advised him that for budgetary reasons, his and 5 other supervisory positions and the position of assistant budget administrator will be eliminated. In the 2019-20 Preliminary Budget Presentation Schwarz presented on March 19 to the Board of Education, he outlined primary cost saving measures including administrative reduction and realignment: eliminating seven existing positions which presently cost the district $978,000 and adding four new positions that will cost the district $570,000. The four new positions will be called Assistant Principals. In the proposed budget presentation, this restructuring will align the district resources, empower principals as the key to student achievements, encourage collaboration among principals and teacher leaders across schools, encourage district administration to support principals who in turn will support faculty, and all three levels will support students and parents. The final budget presentation will be provided to the public on April 25, 2019 and the final budget adoption is scheduled for April 30, 2019

Dowling is perplexed by this proposed system and was surprised by the imminent demise of his position. He states “the district has chosen to ignore experience and expertise.” He sees the irony of just being named Athletic Director of the year and learning that his role as Athletic Director in Madison was being terminated.