To paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of Butch Walter’s retirement have been premature.
The word had seeped out over the course of the 2015-16 school year that Central Valley High School’s popular athletic director was planning to retire at the end of the school year.
But things change.
“I’m going to give it another year – one more year,” Walter said. “I work with great people and we have a great group of kids here. That makes the job easy.”
His smiling face is a fixture at sporting events of all shapes and sizes at CV.
It helps that the Bears, collectively, have been on an exceptional run. The girls soccer team won back-to-back state Class 4A championships in recent years and the boys soccer team has reached back-to-back state semifinal matches the last two years. The girls basketball team won dual state titles this past winter, posting an undefeated state championship season on the court and earning the state academic championship in the classroom. Boys tennis also won the state academic title this spring.
Overall, Central Valley finished in the top 5 in the race for the state Scholastic Cup.
“I am especially proud of the Scholastic Cup,” Walter said. “That’s a big deal out here. That says you’re getting it done on the field and in the classroom.”
Walter was hired 14 years ago, just two weeks before the new Central Valley High School opened.
“The day I was hired I got a call from Mike Hittle, the principal – he was hired in June and I was hired in August,” Walter recalled. “He said ‘Congratulations, and by the way, you have a Greater Spokane League meeting of athletic coordinators tomorrow.’ ”
Walter had to hit the ground running – especially with a brand new school opening. His office was four bare walls at first – no desk, no filing cabinets, no nothing. And since construction was still underway when classes started, there were home football games that had to be moved until the stadium was ready.
“We had to change a home-and-home football game right off the bat,” he said. “When we had finally had our first home football game we still had snow fence around a lot of the stadium area.”
And there were other uniquely new-school problems to address, he said.
“When this school opened, every lock on every door was on a separate key. I spent that whole first year trying to get all of the locks changed so that the whole science department was on one key and the whole athletic department was on one key. It was challenge sorting everything out.”
And sorted out it was.
Walter credits two Spokane Valley athletic directors with helping him over those early hurdles.
“Kenny VanSickle at University has been my friend and mentor from the first day,” Walter said. “He’s still my mentor. I think Kenny and I still probably talk on the phone every day about something. The other one who really helped me a lot was Wayne McKnight, the AD at West Valley at the time.”
Mentoring is an important part of the success Central Valley has enjoyed over the years.
“It helps when you have a football coach like Rick Giampietri,” Walter said. “He was a mentor for a lot of our coaches.”
The school has had a relatively stable coaching staff over the years as well. Rick Sloan, the boys basketball coach and Chuck Bowden, the boys track coach, both were there when Walter arrived. Girls cross country coach Dennis McGuire and girls tennis coach Stan Chalich also predate Walter.
This year Walter has had to replace Giampietri and long-time gymnastics coach Kim Brunelle. Both new hires came from within.
Walter has always put the well-being of the young athletes ahead of all else.
“I can say honestly say that the vast majority of our kids have a good-to-outstanding experience in all of our activities,” he said. “And by that I mean all of our activities: athletics, drama, music, DECA and everything else we offer. I am very proud of that.”
To achieve that goal, Walter has put together a hiring process that has found coaches who fit in with that overall goal while producing successful teams on the field.
“I think it’s important to get as much input as we can into shaping the questions that we ask in the interview process,” he said. “I send out a mass email to the parents to get their input. It takes a while to sort through all of those responses, but it’s worth it.
“And I think just as importantly, we have a very good group asking the questions and measuring the responses. The important part of the process happens after the interview and that group gets together to talk through what they heard and what they think. It’s a process that’s evolved over the years and it’s important that we’ve worked closely with the school district’s human resources department.”
Walter’s guiding principle has always been the same.
“My philosophy is I want us to do things clean,” he said. “I want us to follow the rules and do things with class, and I want us to compete. That’s what I’ve wanted from day one. I don’t want to violate any rules and I want to do things right.”
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