Athletic director position elevated to full-time at Torrey Pines

Charlenne Falcis-Stevens
Charlenne Falcis-Stevens

(Ken Grosse)

As the director of athletics at Torrey Pines High School, Charlenne Falcis-Stevens oversees a program that in terms of size, scope and consistent competitive success is unquestionably one of the best in San Diego, if not the state of California.

A chemistry teacher and head track & field coach at Torrey Pines for the past 18 years, Falcis-Stevens will be entering her 10th year as AD, overseeing an entity in 2023-24 that has expanded to 34 sports. Her tenure has featured 67 CIF championships won by 21 different teams, most in the section’s top division. That number includes six captured in 2022-23.

Reaching the decade mark with that kind of resume is noteworthy in any endeavor but this year will be particularly special to Falcis-Stevens for another reason. It will be the first where she will be recognized officially as a “full-time” athletic director.

Given the responsibility and workload associated with the position and the level of accomplishment the school’s athletic squads have regularly attained over the years, it seems astonishing that it’s occurred under the watch of a “CEO” operating on less than a full-time basis.

Both Falcis-Stevens and her La Costa Canyon counterpart Kari DiGuilio, who had each been functioning in a 40% athletic director/60% teacher capacity, have had their job descriptions adjusted to 100% administrator by the San Dieguito Union High School District Board of Directors. At the same time, the athletic directors at the district’s two other campuses, San Dieguito Academy (Scott Jordon) and Canyon Crest Academy (Bailee Sandsmark), were given a partial increases, lifting their administrative portion to 66.6%.

The concept has been a topic of conversation for many years but came to the forefront at a board workshop in May. In consultation with new District Superintendent Anne Staffieri and the four school principals, the continuing evolution and wide-ranging nature of the programs were evaluated and a consensus was reached on the necessity for adjustments to be made.

Veteran Torrey Pines Principal Rob Coppo provided partial insight into the group’s thinking and the hoped for effect of the decision. “We are confident that with these changes, we will have increased oversight with off-campus coaches and improve coach training and accountability,” he said. “In addition, we will have enhanced oversight and monitoring of Title IX requirements while also ultimately improving the overall safety and support for our student-athletes.”

In a setting like Torrey Pines, where a remarkable 59% of the student body participates in at least one CIF sport, the new circumstances provide Falcis-Stevens an opportunity to more reasonably address the realities facing today’s prep administrators.

Back in the early 2000s, full-time high school athletic directors were not unusual but teaching shortages resulted in ADs being nudged back into classrooms, on at least a part-time basis, to fill the void. That soon became the norm but the complexity of the position has escalated significantly since those days.

“I have an athletic assistant, Matt Clark, and the two of us are essentially running the entire department,” said Falcis-Stevens. “I’m very fortunate that my supervisor, Assistant Principal Rebecca Gallow, like her predecessors, is actually involved in many facets of our operation.

“Since I began my stint as AD, we’ve added sports and seen the number of athletes increase accordingly, along with the demands and expectations,” in areas like coach/athlete clearance, scheduling, facility management, external engagement and formalizing policies and procedures.

While there’s clearly a plethora of tasks to address, it’s some simple elements that get Falcis-Stevens the most excited when she ponders the possibilities her new world offers.

“In my mind, the most important part of this shift is that it will actually be giving me time to really do the job properly,” says the 1995 UC Davis grad, whose varsity teams alone cumulatively log nearly 1,000 contests per year, not counting post-season. “There are so many “i’s” to dot and “t’s” to cross—for people who are not actually there every day, it’s sometimes hard to paint the picture of just how much there is to do.

“I’m energized by the idea that I’ll actually get to focus on my coaches and get to know our athletes better. I don’t feel like I’m ignoring anyone now but it’s been tough to provide real support for coaches and athletes in our current scenario, particularly when the coaches are inexperienced and the athletes are young.