WPIAL hires chief operating officer to ease workload of executive director

Monday, May 16, 2022 | 12:01 AM

The role of the WPIAL executive director has changed over the years, with social media bringing more and more issues to the league’s attention, said outgoing director Amy Scheuneman.

As a result, executive directors has become more than a one-person job. Now more than ever, the WPIAL staff and its board deal with a greater volume and wider spectrum of issues, she said, including some that used to be handled in-house by schools.

“I think a lot of that has to do with the availability of social media and knowing what’s going on out there,” said Scheuneman, who oversaw her final monthly WPIAL board meeting Monday.

“Information is so quickly disseminated and issues brought to light,” she said. “A lot of (the issues) in the past may have been handled locally and no one even knew about it. Now, everybody knows about everything because it’s so readily available.”

Scheuneman is resigning June 1 to accept a job elsewhere. Current board president Scott Seltzer was chosen April 25 to replace her as executive director, but the WPIAL board decided Monday to give Seltzer additional help.

The board voted to create a chief operating officer position to oversee postseason tournaments and associated responsibilities, such as finding host sites and finalizing contracts for championship venues, allowing Seltzer more time to focus on board action and policy issues.

Scheuneman, who served two years as executive director, recommended the second-in-charge position be created.

“It helps by giving the other person more responsibility,” she said, “where I was in charge of it all. You’re running all of the tournaments as well as dealing with the board meetings and eligibilities and transfers and the different things that occur on a daily basis, really unrelated to the actual tournaments.”

Vince Sortino, the current assistant to the executive director, will be promoted to chief operating officer June 1. The change in job title will coincide with him taking on a larger administrative role. Sortino also will serve as interim executive director for one month until Seltzer’s tenure begins July 1.

The WPIAL also budgeted money to potentially hire a third administration member, but Scheuneman said it’s undecided how that position will be used.

Scheuneman announced last month she was leaving the WPIAL for a job with P3R, an organizer of races in Western Pennsylvania, including the Pittsburgh Marathon. After Monday’s board meeting, she reflected on her two years as the league’s top administrator.

“There have only been four of us who’ve been through this to know exactly what it entails,” Scheuneman said.

She joined the WPIAL administration in July 2019 as Tim O’Malley’s eventual successor. She became the league’s first female executive director and the fourth person to hold the position full-time after Charles “Ace” Heberling (1976-97), Larry Hanley (1997-06) and O’Malley (2006-20).

She became the WPIAL’s top administrator during a pandemic, which made the job more challenging.

“It’s hard to describe it until you actually live it,” she said. “I can’t say that it was different (than what I expected). I didn’t know what to expect, really. It’s hard to even tell somebody what it’s like. It’s a lot to manage.”

The executive director often is a lightning rod for criticism, especially when it comes to cases of transfers, eligibility and recruiting. Scheuneman’s time was no exception.

“We’re all in it for the students,” she said. “It’s hard at times to make decisions that do negatively affect them. That’s hard to do, but you have to follow the rules, so it’s a double-edged sword.”

Scheuneman time in charge will be remembered for the initiatives she championed including those focused on sportsmanship, diversity and inclusiveness. She was the driving force behind the WPIAL Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Council, which has guided the board during a time of heightened focus on racial equity.

“Using community and athletics to benefit society — just seeing the bigger picture of it — is certainly something that I focused on,” said Scheuneman, who also organized a league-wide food drive. “Some of those outside-the-bylaws-type things are important to me and important, I feel, to the league in general.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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