The vacancy of Pflugerville ISD's athletics director position has officially come to an end.
On July 1, Johanna Denson was handed the reins of the district's sports programs, filling a position that had remained open since February, when Dwayne Weirich resigned in order to take the same position with Round Rock ISD.
Denson comes to Pflugerville with 13 years' experience leading athletics departments in Texas public schools, including three years in Tyler, and most recently,
10 years as the athletics director of Waco ISD. Her former co-workers in Waco have credited her with raising the performance levels of all the district's Division 4A high school programs and for developing the Waco ISD Sports Complex into one of Texas' most successful locations for hosting playoff and tournament games.
"Our athletic programs are healthy as far as wins and losses," said Jerry Gibson, Waco ISD director of secondary education. "[Denson] accomplished some great things for Waco ISD."
Specifically, Gibson noted the recent state championship for Waco High School's boys soccer team, a three-year playoff run for University High School's baseball team and increasing the attention given to WISD's girls athletics programs among Denson's accomplishments.
"Our girls athletics have really stepped up and grown immensely under coach Denson's leadership," Gibson said.
Denson said she became familiar with PISD's athletics programs and leadership through hosting the district's teams at tournaments in Waco. She said she has been a longtime admirer of the way PISD's athletes conduct themselves on and off of the playing fields.
"I have watched [the Pflugerville teams] over the years and always thought they had great teams and great leadership," Denson said. "So we have the best of both worlds—strong academics and athletics in Pflugerville."
In transitioning from Waco to Pflugerville, Denson will be taking a step up in terms of the size and classification of the programs she is running. Waco ISD contains approximately 15,000 students, with two high schools that compete at the 4A level. Pflugerville ISD counts more than 23,000 students with two 5A-level high schools and one 4A-level high school. PISD's expected continued growth will also likely add more students and possibly a fourth high school in the near future.
Denson also inherits an athletics department in PISD that has enjoyed a run of recent success. During the past school year alone, all of PISD's high school football and volleyball teams qualified for the playoffs. Individual PISD schools also saw district championships and playoff qualifications in cross country, boys and girls basketball, girls soccer and baseball.
Denson said that completing needs assessments for every district campus will be among her first tasks.
"[We want] to see what items we can address first, prioritize them and work through the list," she said. "One campus may need weight equipment, while another campus may need help in personnel. It is multifaceted."
Denson said she believes providing the necessary logistical and staff support needed for coaches is a key ingredient to the stability and success of athletics programs.
"The first thing we look for in trying to improve a program is finding a person that fits that campus personality," she said. "They have to have knowledge of the sport, and we have to be able to keep them in place.
"If a coach feels like they are being supported and that the needs of their program and campus [are] being met, then they want to stay at that school. We work to make salaries competitive, and we work to make stipends competitive. It is a process But if you put those items in place, you are able to retain coaches."