Anger, dismay over decision to open Española jobs

Girls hoops coach Roybal says she will not reapply

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Cindy Roybal was livid.

Damon Salazar expressed disappointment.

Jesus Maes was worried more for his new hires than he was for his future prospects at Española Valley.

Fallout is crystallizing from the decision by Española schools interim Superintendent Denise Johnson to open all fall and winter sports head coach positions to applications next week.

On Tuesday, Roybal called the move to force her to reapply for the girls basketball job a "slap in the face" and added she would not apply because she "didn't want to be a pawn in their game."

That means the school district will have both basketball jobs available, since it's clear the school district wants to move on from former coach Richard Martinez and his brother and interim head coach, Eric Martinez.

Richard Martinez held the position this season even though he did not coach the team, a direct result of the fallout from the state's Public Education Department's investigation and still-pending hearing into his conduct as a coach and teacher. Eric Martinez filled in as the interim coach, leading the Sundevils to a 20-9 record and a first-round exit from the Class 5A State Tournament.

Salazar, the eighth-year head volleyball coach, said he was disappointed that the district decided to make the decision after the winter season ended since he received a recommendation for rehire in the fall. He said he will reapply for his job.

"I'm not surprised because obviously there are changes coming," Salazar said. "What I am surprised is that this is the first thing that happens when we have larger issues here. Everybody has budget woes. We've had eight or nine superintendents since I've been coaching, nine or 10 principals and four or five [athletic directors]. We've had a lot of turnover. I'm not surprised. Just disappointed that we have to go through this."

Salazar developed one of the stronger volleyball programs in Northern New Mexico, compiling a 110-71 record and three district titles over the past four seasons. Salazar also touted the success his program has in producing solid players who end up playing collegiately as well as good students.

"A lot of girls are going to college, some of them are competing well, and a lot of them come back and are doing well in their careers and are happy and well-adjusted," Salazar said.

Maes, who was hired as the football coach in June 2016, expressed more concern for a couple of assistant coaches he recently hired from Texas. Maes said he received calls from other coaches asking about his status, and didn't feel like he would be without a job. That wasn't the case for his new hires.

"One's already moved in and the wife is in the nursing program," Maes said. "I'm kind of nervous for them. What concerns me is coaches leaving their jobs in Texas and starting their jobs here in the offseason. If I get re-hired, it will only delay us for two or three weeks, but this is a little nerve-wracking."

Maes said he will reapply for the job, adding, 'The only way they can get rid of me is to open the job and not allow me to apply for it."

Maes took over for Miguel Medina, who resigned the day after Martinez was fired and Gutierrez resigned after the program's most successful season -- a 9-2 record and the first district title in its history. The Sundevils were 1-9 in 2016, but were more competitive during the District 2-5A season. That leaves optimism that the program can bounce back and contend in 2017, and Maes hopes to continue the progress Española showed late in the season.

"It takes a couple of years to develop a program," Maes said. "We took over a program that lost 20 seniors, and forfeited their last five games of the junior varsity season. So it's going to take some time to get these kids ready for the varsity level and battle for a district championship. I think there are a lot of people who understand that, but others who just look at the record and see that it's disappointing."

Aaron Salinas confirmed he will reapply for the wrestling job, but declined to comment on the district's decision.

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