BY DEAN HOCKNEY
KOKOMO, Ind. – In one of the busiest times in Taylor High School athletic history, the program finds itself without a leader. On Jan. 22 – just as Taylor was hosting the boys and girls Howard County basketball tournaments, rescheduling multiple events due to snow and making arrangements to switch to a new conference – Athletic Director Karen Franklin abruptly resigned her position, effective immediately.
“Karen just verbally indicated to me that it was her wish to resign effective immediately,” said Taylor Principal Eric Hartman. “She then wrote a letter indicating that and that is pretty much it.”
Hartman said Franklin’s resignation was unexpected, but he had nothing but praise for the former educator.
“It came as a surprise, but I think she is ready to move on to the next chapter of her life,” he said. “We appreciate everything she did for us. She is a very thorough and dedicated employee and we wish her nothing but the best.”
Franklin was hired as the Titans athletic director in August 2008. She arrived at Taylor following her retirement from Oregon-Davis High School, where she spent 32 years as a teacher and coach. Oregon-Davis is a small Class 1A school located in the north-central Indiana city of Hamlet. She was a health and physical education teacher, and at various times coached volleyball, gymnastics, basketball, track, cross country and swimming during her Bobcats career – as well as serving as an IHSAA basketball referee.
A Ball State graduate who hails from Daleville, Franklin moved to Kokomo three years prior to taking the Taylor position so she could be closer to her parents who lived in Delaware County. When she accepted the Taylor position, the program lacked stabilization – she was the fourth athletic director in six years.
“She inherited the athletic office when we were transitioning after a couple of AD’s,” said Hartman. “Kory Fernung was here for a long time and left. Leah Woodridge was here for three years and Heather Hord did a nice job for one year before returning to the middle school. Karen came in and did a nice job of getting things organized and streamlined in the right direction. That being said, whoever takes over for her on a permanent basis will certainly reap the benefits of a lot of hard work that Karen put in.”
Each of the three previous athletic directors moved on to larger schools or other administrative positions: Fernung (1998-2004) is now the athletic director at Tipton High School, Wooldridge (2004-2007) is the assistant principal at Franklin Community High School and Hord (2007-2008) is the Taylor Middle School principal.
Hartman said a search for a new athletic director will start in early spring with a posting for the position, but until a new AD is hired, Steve Dishon will serve as the interim. Dishon is currently a language arts teacher at Taylor.
“I speak on behalf of Taylor Middle School Principal Heather Hord when I say we are both excited to have Steve Dishon step forward and inherit the responsibilities of this position on an interim basis,” said Hartman in a press release. “Steve has proven himself to be an outstanding member of our faculty in his many other roles in his almost 11 years of service here at Taylor High School. In the classroom, he has always put children first and has been a great spokesperson for our school corporation.”
Dishon is a 1989 Kokomo High School graduate and has a long history with the Taylor athletic department. He is currently the Taylor C team basketball coach and middle school golf coach while previously serving as an assistant football and volleyball coach. He also was the academic coach of the state championship Academic Team. Hartman noted that Dishon will have the complete support of the Taylor administration.
“When it comes to supervising events, we already had a hand in it anyway,” said Hartman. “We have a strong tradition of excellence with our athletic and extracurricular programs here at Taylor High School and Middle School. We feel we will be in great shape moving forward.”
Karen Franklin was unavailable for comment for this story.