By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
The high school’s vaunted athletic director is leaving at the end of October to take a teaching job at Raritan High School in Hazlet, putting school leadership on the hunt for a replacement who can fill the big hole Dal Pra will leave.
“Del’s a big loss because he’s a great community guy,” principal Risa Clay said. “People are devastated.”
Dal Pra, 45, knows that, and it isn’t an easy move for him, either. Since taking the reins in 2008, he’s built up an athletic program that’s on the upswing, Clay said. He started the school booster club, hired 17 new coaches and at least 25 assistant coaches, launched the school’s wrestling program and expanded the Junior Bucs program to include basketball and soccer, to name a few accomplishments.
But his gains have come at a personal cost, he says.
“It’s really a family move. It’s going from a 300-day job to 180 days,” said Dal Pra, who will be a health and phys ed teacher at Raritan. “Professionally, I really wanted to be a teacher and a coach. And personally, I want to be a better husband, a better father, and I really wasn’t doing that.”
Students, he said, have taken it hard, but understand his decision.
“It was very difficult. There’s 130 kids here I care about,” he said. “But my three kids at home, I have to care about them a lot more. My wife and my kids make (the decision) easy. But the students here, they made it real hard.”
Dal Pra, who lives in Red Bank, says he’ll continue to stay involved in local sports. He coaches Pop Warner football and sits on the borough recreation commission, so it’s not as if he’s completely pulling out.
Before he leaves, he said he’s focused on getting the school’s winter sports program started up and making for a smooth transition for his replacement.
He suspects that person, and the athletic program, will be just fine. When redbankgreen interviewed Dal Pra last year, he said his top goal was to have all the kids proud that they play for RBR. On Saturday, as he zoomed around the high school fields in his golf cart, he smiled, saying that he’s accomplished that.
“When I came here I had a 20-year plan and I had two years to do it,” he said. “It’s looking pretty good.”