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NMAA's Tripp Named Principal

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Takes Post at Zia Pueblo Day School

Mystery solved – Gary Tripp is headed back to the principal’s office.

The executive director of the New Mexico Activities Association finally revealed Tuesday why he’s resigning the post he’s held since 2004.

He will be the principal at the Zia Pueblo Day School (K-8) just north of Bernalillo. He said he’s been looking for months to get back into school administration, and this chance fell into his lap when he said he was approached by Zia Pueblo in the middle of July.

“Exactly what you said,” Tripp said Tuesday. “I’ve been looking for something, and it didn’t matter (where). Anything within education.”

Tripp will vacate his office at the NMAA on Friday, about 8 1/2 years after he took over the state’s governing body for high school athletics. Last year, Tripp retired in June, only to change his mind the next month.

In the meantime, the NMAA’s board of directors, in an emergency conference call Tuesday morning, delegated power to a trio of NMAA staffers as the search for a new executive director begins. Sally Marquez, Dana Sanchez and Bill Cleland will handle the day-to-day operations until a full-time replacement is hired.

That recommendation is expected to be made to the board at its next regular meeting Sept. 26.

Tripp’s job will be posted Friday and closed Sept. 14. Applicants will supply a résumé, letter of interest and three to five letters of recommendation. After whittling the list to no more than five finalists, interviews will be conducted on or about Sept. 25.

It is, one board member said, an “aggressive timeline.”

It was not immediately clear who would serve on the selection committee. At least some of the 13-member board will serve, plus some athletic directors and other key personnel from NMAA member schools.

Marquez said she would apply for the position.

Tripp, 52, said New Mexico would probably be better off if the person who replaces him came from within the NMAA. He gave his endorsement to Marquez.

“She knows this (job) inside and out,” Tripp said.

Tripp has twice been a principal before – once at an elementary school in Moriarty and also for five years at Rio Rancho High School. He was the Rams’ principal when the NMAA hired him. He said he’d been looking for an administrative post “since last summer.”

“The thing that struck me was the challenge of being a leader, of helping kids directly,” Tripp said of his decision to bolt the NMAA. “Being with those kids again excites me.”

The most pressing matter for the Sanchez/Marquez/Cleland trio is to ensure that the NMAA is ready to conduct fall state championships.

“That’s correct,” Marquez said. “We are a strong, cohesive unit, with a strong staff. We care about the students of New Mexico, and we will do everything we can possibly do in order that everything continues status quo.”

Sanchez has the most seniority on the staff. She joined in 1997 and has been the commissioner of officials for the past nine years. Marquez was promoted to assistant executive director last fall; she started in July 2004. Cleland, the NMAA’s deputy director, was hired in September 2007.

The NMAA is down four staffers from the end of the spring state championships: Tripp; associate director/communications director Robert Zayas, who took a job in New York; assistant director Randy Adrian; and Kristin Derr, who oversaw the state spirit competition.

The NMAA has implemented a hiring freeze until the new executive director is named.

“We have a lot of experience on the staff, and staff members that will do anything to get the job done,” Marquez said.
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal