Aaron Longo leaves St. Helens AD position after one year
There's no other way to say it — Aaron Longo's time in St. Helens was limited.
Longo, hired as St. Helens High School's athletic director just as the 2017-18 school year started, left relatively soon after it was over.
But his short stint in St. Helens was impactful, meaningful and memorable.
Longo, 33, recently accepted a job offer to serve as assistant principal and athletic director at Taft High School. While he leaves St. Helens after just 10 months, that short tenure included a ton of hard work and learning, as well as friendships he will continue to treasure.
Longo particularly appreciated the support, insight and friendship of former interim principal Ted Zehr (St. Helens recently hired Dr. Katy Wagner as the school's permanent replacement) and Jim Carlisle.
"Both Jim and Ted brought a lot of good things to the table," Longo said. "Jim was awesome to talk to and get his opinion. He actually watched Civil Rights in education happen … and Ted really helped me grow a lot."
Longo, who took the job at St. Helens after spending the previous six years as athletic director, dean of students, coach and teacher at Mapleton High School, also came to appreciate St. Helens High School itself as well as the city of St. Helens.
"St. Helens really has a lot going for it," he said. "It's close to Portland and it's close to Beaverton and Hillsboro so it's in a good place to get good competition, and we were also able to draw from a large pot of coaches. We have a very diverse coaching staff."
Regarding the school itself, Longo said "St. Helens is a great school with a great staff. There's a lot of folks there I'll truly miss."
He went on to compliment SHHS' facilities and the contributions of the St. Helens Booster Club, noting the great seating and atmosphere in the gymnasium, the solid baseball and softball facilities, the newly resurfaced tennis courts, great track and football field (with covered grandstands for the home fans), and the driving range and short course practice area for the school's golf teams.
"I've always been in the classroom and I learned that was something I really missed. I recognized how important that was to me."
— Aaron Longo
So with all that going for St. Helens, why leave?
As it turns out, St. Helens just wasn't the right job for Longo.
The St. Helens AD position marked his first full-time position in athletic administration, and while he appreciated all the attention he could give to sports and the school's coaches, he found himself missing his time in the classroom and his time mentoring other teachers.
In the long run, those shortcomings proved too much to overcome.
"It just wasn't the right fit for me," he said. "Pure athletic administration really frees you up to do some things … but classroom instruction is so important to me. I've always been in the classroom and I learned that was something I really missed. I recognized how important that was to me."
Longo also struggled because of the separation from his family that came with his year in St. Helens. Longo's initial plan was that his family — wife Lucinda, daughter Caroline (age 6) and son Simon (3) — would eventually join him in his new home, but his doubts about the St. Helens AD job soon scuttled that idea.
While Longo stayed with his sister in Portland and commuted to St. Helens during the week, he then went home to be with his wife — a teacher at Mapleton High School and Lane Community College — and children in Florence on the weekends.
"It was tough to say the least," Longo said. "The plan was always that the family would move up, but as the year went on. I found it wasn't the right fit for me.
"I had a lot of long conversations with my spouse. I have an incredibly supportive spouse."
Further, the turnover in administration at the high school also wore on Longo. In addition to Wagner's addition as principal, the school also recently named Darcy Soto as a new assistant principal. Ted Hirning, a longtime teacher and coach at St. Helens High School, has been named to replace Longo as athletic director.
"Having new building administration always makes for a tough transition," Longo said. "It can be a good thing for a building, but it always takes a while to get used to each other."
With all the positive pieces in place — Longo offered special thanks to Booster Club President Stan Girard for all his support — there are challenges associated with the job, too.
"Coach turnover is one of the biggest ones," he said, including current openings for the varsity boys and girls basketball jobs, and the girls tennis position. "It's far enough away from Portland that people have to really think about coming out here."
Beyond any of that, however, Longo left because he found a better fit at Taft that simultaneously moved him closer to his family.
"It was funny. I applied for the new job on a Monday and got the offer on Friday," he said. "I thought 'Wow. They must really want me.' It made the move a natural."