A portion of this article is being shared with permission from the Minnesota State High School League.
by Tim Leighton, MSHSL Communications Coordinator
They chose career paths ﬁlled with long hours, countless duties, and too often, thankless times that would make most throw their hands up in disgust or surrender. Daily, they are seemingly pulled in dozens of directions at once, but somehow, they stay on course with a caring sense of direction for their clientele, afﬁrmative smiles, and the deep-rooted purpose of making a positive impact with students.
Welcome to the oftentimes wacky way of life for an activities director. It is a welcomed existence for most. Truly.
“I am very fortunate to be in a profession that is so near and dear to my heart,” Mounds Park Academy activities director Joe Kordosky said during a mid-winter visit.
“It’s been a colorful journey,” Chisago Lakes activities director Neil Fletcher said. “The journey has made me who I am. I have become a little bit of everybody that I have connected with over my career. I was impacted by others just as much as maybe me impacting them.”
Kordosky and Fletcher are among more than a dozen activities directors from Minnesota State High School League member schools that have announced their retirement following the conclusion of the 2016-17 school year.
While each retiring AD has certainly had their unique career journeys, Kordosky and Fletcher stand out, though, because of the administrative paths they followed. For virtually his entire 40-year career, Kordosky has been in a private-school setting. Fletcher, meanwhile, has had many stops on the public-school road.
While their experiences differed at times because of their school environments, their sense of purpose and commitment to their communities were mirror images.
Just call him “Kordo”
In the lobby of the Lansing Center, a modern expansion of the athletic facilities at the private school, a sign with handwritten messages to Kordosky is proudly displayed. Members of the student body contend that Kordosky’s retirement isn’t real, but merely an April Fool’s Day prank.
“Nope, it’s real,” Kordosky says with a smile. “I can really appreciate what the students are feeling and their constant urging me to stay. I’ve stayed around a long time because of them. They were the ones that kept me coming back year after year.”
“I would hope that the school community will remember me as the guy that was always there for them, the one that was positive and the one whose primary objective was to make things fun, positive and memorable for them.” – Kordo
Kordosky is a product of public school education, graduating from St. Paul Johnson and then the University of Minnesota where he was an inﬁelder on the Gophers’ baseball team. He says he was only aware of private schools because Johnson played Cretin in baseball and he had friends that went to Hill-Murray to play hockey.
Not surprisingly, at first, he began his educational and administrative career at Brooklyn Center High School, a public school. He credits longtime AD Doug Darnell for being an inﬂuential mentor while he was a physical education instructor and a baseball coach.
“I’ve still got some purple blood in me,” Kordosky said, refer-ring to Brooklyn Center’s primary color. “What a phenomenal experience. I learned that good coaches are made by getting good coaches to mentor them.”
After a year at Brooklyn Center, he became an elementary school teacher in Apple Valley. He didn’t have a coaching job to go with it though, which he missed terribly. That prompted him to pursue a teaching and coaching opening at Breck, a private school in Golden Valley. The position included some football and basketball coaching, as well as the head baseball coaching job.
“Here I was, a public school guy in a private school world,” Kordosky said. “It was a different world to a degree. We had about 800 seniors in our class at school growing up, and now there were about 300 in the entire Breck community.”
He enjoyed the setting, staying at Breck for 10 years, including the ﬁnal three as the school’s activities director. Kordosky was lured, though, by a growing private school community at Mounds Park Academy where he has been the AD for the past 28 years.
His wife, Debbie, still works at Breck, which Kordosky jokes makes for an interesting time at their Eagan household when Mounds Park Academy faces the Mustangs in an Independent Metro Athletic Conference contest.
“You come into a job as an AD all full of energy and ideas,” he said. “But then you have to gear back a bit, and tackle the things you know are manageable. You realize you are in it for the kids. You are always trying to make things good for them. Winning is great, but it is the impact on kids that makes everything so worthwhile and special.”
Kordosky evidently has hit a home run with many in the Mounds Park Academy student body.
“I think because we are in a small-school setting, he was so much more approachable,” junior Tom Fitzgerald said. “We weren’t afraid or intimidated by him. His door is always open when we need someone to talk to.”
During passing time, Kordosky makes sure he is in the hallways, greeting each of the students by name, providing words of encouragement, asking how a test went, and of course, a trademark ﬁst bump.
“At a small school, it is so important to have a strong AD and Kordo ﬁlls that position so well,” said junior Quinn Campbell. “He is always there for the students. I honestly don’t know anyone in this school that doesn’t like to be around him.”
Depth isn’t a word used often at Mounds Park Academy, a school with an enrollment of 203 (in Upper School). Kordosky, Mounds Park Academy’s varsity baseball coach for 25 years before retiring six years ago, faced other challenges, too, including cultivating the support of parents. Anytime he was faced with a tough decision, he would always put it in the context ﬁrst of what was best for the student.
“I discovered early on that the communication piece is so important, not just with our parents, but our coaches as well,” he said. “I continued to preach that we can’t create positive experiences unless we are going to work together. I allowed parents and supporters to have a voice.
“They might not know the dynamics of sports, but I worked hard to educate them on what is good for the entire school community. If they were in it with us, there were fewer issues. Knowing how to strike a balance made me a better AD.”
Boys varsity basketball coach Dan Haase will become the Panthers’ new AD when Kordosky steps aside this summer. Haase has already been shadowing Kordosky to learn his new role.
“I got to do one of the greatest things in education,” Kordosky said. “I got to be their No. 1 fan.”