by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
John Barth, activities director for an eventful 11 years at ERHS and a faculty member for 35 years, has retired.
“I still love my job, but it’s time,” said Barth, whose performance is highly-regarded in the school and community.
Barth, 58, arrived at ERHS in 1976. He taught English 21 years while starting the girls cross country program as head coach and serving as varsity assistant in football and basketball. He succeeded Mike Hanlon as AD in 1999.
No successor has been named at this writing.
Barth was city youth basketball director for nearly two decades and officiated in football, basketball and baseball, all of which built up a large volume of contacts which, he says, has served him well as A.D.
Barth’s wife, Marjorie, also retired at the end of the school year from her elementary teacher position at Twin Lakes. They have four grown sons – Ryan, Lucas, Adam, and Jonathan – and five grandchildren.
Barth was a four-sport all-conference athlete at Howard Lake (football, basketball, baseball and track) and played guard on St. Cloud State’s basketball team, serving as captain his senior year.
The busiest time of Barth’s tenure came in his second and third year when District 728 split into three, adding Rogers and Zimmerman schools. He administered the day-to-day operations at ERHS while working with the new schools in advising community groups, hiring coaches, budgeting, buying equipment and supervising building decisions.
“Many coaches that I hired were at ERHS and were the top assistants, basically preparing for their opportunity to be head coaches at ERHS,” said Barth. “I was glad for them that coaching opportunities came to them earlier.”
Those initial hires at Rogers were Marc Franz (football), Joe Belka (boys basketball), Lamar Detert (girls basketball), and Theresa Brummer (vollyeball), all teachers except Detert, a businessman and former college coach. At Zimmerman they were Dave Hamlin (football), Jeff Downing (girls soccer and basketeball), Kathy Brant (volleyball) and Kelvin Beck (boys basketball).
His early years as the AD were an exciting and productive period.
“We were still a very large school and participating in many section and state tournaments,” Barth recalled. “At the same time was the excitement of everything being new at Rogers and Zimmerman as they were developing their own traditions.”
It was also a time of budget cuts, raising fees and eliminating junior high activities. He credits booster clubs at all three schools with helping the programs function at high level.
One pleasant surprise for Barth has been relations with parents.
“People talk about parents and assume there are issues and problems,” said Barth. “I have not found that to be true at Elk River. I have felt tremendous parent support and the complaints are few. Good parent relationships is also attributed to the coaches, strong organized booster groups and the total school atmosphere.”
A.D. used to mean “athletic director” but has transformed to “activities director” as all manner of extracurriculars come under the jurisdiction. That was fine with Barth, who also had the lead in two plays, and whose family is intimately involved in arts.
“Little did I know that I was being prepared for an activities director position many years later,” said Barth. “My wife is very musical, I have a son skilled in the visual arts, and I have brothers in the theatre busines … When Zabee Theatre was opened, my brothers helped me bring some professional plays.”
He was a leader in creating the ERHS Sports Hall of Fame in 2005 and serves on the selection committee. The Hall now has 49 members.
Barth’s final year as AD started with an uncomfortable mess as the varsity football program was suspended for four days after allegations of hazing, with the Twin Cities media all over the story, resulting in multiple suspensions of seniors, reprimands for coaches, and an 0-9 season, after which coach Mike Cross resigned. Barth’s final hire was Steve Hamilton, who’s been coaching in Georgia, to take over.
“The situation this last fall was unfortunate and a tremendous character challenge for our athletes, the community, the coaches and administration,” reflected Barth. “It is time to learn from our mistakes, encourage all of our programs to move forward, and give our complete support to our athletes and coaches.
“As trite as it may sound, the slogan is true and we must always remember: ‘It is always great to be an Elk.’ ”