JCHS hires Caballero as athletic director

In searching for a new activities director, Jefferson City Public School administrators were looking for someone passionate about helping make Jefferson City High School competitive across the board.

Turns out Mark Caballero was looking for the same thing from the school.

The two found their match as the Ozark High School athletic director was named the new activities director at Jefferson City High School on Tuesday.

“What I really loved about it was the passion I see in the room and the way people talk, from the superintendent all the way down to every principal, the teachers and the people who were in the room and the interview room,” Caballero said.

Caballero will replace Mike McGurk, who accepted a similar position at Lee’s Summit North last month.

McGurk will finish out the school year before Caballero takes over.

“It’s a job that can really be one of the flagship programs in the whole state,” Caballero said. “I think it can be one of the pinnacle programs in the whole state. The people are very committed and there’s a lot of positive energy there. The direction they are going is really exciting. For me to be a part of that is a great opportunity.”

More than 20 members of the community, including current coaches and parents, made up a committee that helped in the interview process.

Seven applicants were selected for interviews before four finalists were picked. Caballero beat out three internal candidates for the position.

“I think a few things I think we recognized as a committee, one, is passion for the students and wanting to make everyone around him better,” assistant principal Andrew Runzi said. “I think he’s had some success at his previous school and I think that weighed into the factor. I think the way he talked about pursuing excellence in not only athletics but activities.”

Originally from Cedar Falls, Iowa, Caballero has a background in coaching and administration. He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Northern Iowa after playing football for the Panthers. His college coaching career included stints at Garden City Community College, where he served as the team’s offensive coordinator. He served as an offensive line coach during stops at Idaho State, Western Illinois and Missouri State, where he also served as recruiting coordinator.

For the last 12 years he has been with the Ozark School District, where he started as an assistant football and wrestling coach before becoming the assistant athletic director in 2007. He became the head athletic director in 2009.

Ozark’s athletic programs have had a run of success in Caballero’s tenure. During his time in administration, Ozark won the 2008 state baseball title and has been a perennial top-10 team in wrestling. Ozark also has reached the Final Four in volleyball four straight years, including a state championship in 2009. The softball team reached the state title game last season.

After his interview, he was hopeful some of that success can continue at Jefferson City.

“It was one of the really exciting things when you can hear so many people consistently talk about wanting to be a winner and wanting to help kids be better in every facet of their life,” Caballero said. “I think that’s exciting when you can be around a group of people like that.”

The new hire means there could be some changes to how the job is structured.

Superintendent Brian Mitchell said one thing he hopes to do in the next few years is delegate more help to ease some of the burden off the position. He said that does not mean adding more staff, but simply moving around duties.

“I don’t see how we can’t if we’re going to provide the kind of assistance that all of our programs really need,” Mitchell said.

Caballero said he is ready to meet the challenges of the job head on.

“I think it’s a championship place,” he said. “I think it’s one of those lucky places to work at.”

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