Director of Learner Empowerment and Athletics is a mouthful of a title but John Caesar is ready for this big new role with Lindsay High School.
COVID-19 is keeping Caesar off campus but he's already hit the ground running by going over new rules for return to play with coaches, and connecting over Zoom with everyone from the CIF to the maintenance workers to start building relationships.
“I like to build relationships,” Caesar said. “I like to hear what people’s expectations of me is and just have really honest conversations. I like to be able to share my expectations. It’s nice to work that way. I’m a relationship guy. That’s really where my big opportunities come, is in building relationships.”
Caesar is taking over athletic duties from former Dean of Students, Michael Langton. Langton served as the Cardinals’ athletic director until February of this year and is now the principal of Laton High School.
For many in athletics, Caesar is a familiar face. He was a volunteer coach for the girls basketball, cross country and track and field programs; and an enthusiastic fan for all three of his children who played sports for Lindsay.
Caesar also previously served as a consultant for Lindsay High through the Reinventing Schools Coalition before becoming the Director of Personalized Learning for Lindsay Unified School District in 2010. He then went back to consulting for Lindsay High and was most recently working to build the Cardinal Math Academy.
“I’ve always been involved,” Caesar said. “The principal, George Tapanes, he’s an incredibly learner-centered leader and a key reason I took this position. He’s the real deal. He really wants to create a culture that’s uncompromisingly learner focused.”
Caesar has big plans for athletics at Lindsay, including making a bigger push in getting students into NCAA Division I and II programs.
“This is the third-straight year we’ve successfully advanced kids to a Division I or Division II level,” Caesar said. “First was Marlene (Gutierrez) three years ago, then (McKaylie Caesar) last year and then this year is Nancy (Vasquez). All runners (and a thrower) but my goal is to make that the norm, not the exception. That every year we’re pumping kids out for an opportunity to compete at the next level.”
Gutierrez throws shot put and hammer for Div. I University of California, Davis while McKaylie Caesar -- John Caesar’s daughter -- runs cross country and track for Div. I California State University, Fullerton. Vasquez, the school’s most recent signing, is set to run cross country and track for Div. II CSU-Sonoma in the fall.
Another goal for Caesar is to remain in contact with former athletes and have them come back to talk about what it took to get to the next level while also developing a feeder program.
“I guess my dream...is to create, make our program the Clovis of Division IV athletics really,” he said. “A program built on excellence with feeders. There’s a lot of work to do there, we don’t have the best feeder programs so we’re going to have to look at how we build feeder programs.”
On the coaching side, Caesar has ideas too. “I’d like to develop a coaching framework that speaks a common language across sports, and that develops not just the physical aspect of kids, but the heart and soul as well,” he said.
Above all, Caesar wants to have his learners engaged and involved in what happens.
“The biggest goal I have is inviting learners into this space to be the catalyst to make it all happen,” Caesar said. “That’s the part that excites me the most. Maybe we’ll have an athletic director cabinet, who knows. We’ll ask the kids, they’ll let us know what it’s going to take and we’ll just listen to them.”
The willingness to listen to Lindsay learners will translate well for Caesar as he also handles the duties of teaching leadership classes to over 100 learners, leading the Associated Student Body (ASB) and overseeing all school clubs. On that side of his new role, he also has plenty of plans including creating a student-lead judicial model and a learners’ summit.
"The goals are quite innovative for the position and it’s really what I like to do," Caesar said. "I get to build something in partnership with the kids and leaders of the school that’s going to be quite unique and quite cool."