Danny Hernandez is leaving one dream job for what he believes will be another.
After serving as coach of the Park High School football team the last two seasons, the 33-year-old Hernandez is stepping down to become assistant principal at Jerstad-Agerholm School.
He underwent septoplasty, turbinate resection and a uvulectomy Thursday to address what he described as a severe sleep apnea issue and was unable to speak when contacted for this story. But he did answer questions by email.
Addressing his decision to leave coaching, Hernandez wrote, “I initially took the position in January as an interim assistant principal. Just recently, the interim tag was removed and I was offered the full-time position. Being a middle school AP is a high energy position — the day is never the same, and it requires a lot of compassion and commitment to both students and faculty.
“It’s really challenging work and its the type of work I enjoy. Working for Kristen Reed, the directing principal at Jerstad, has been great, she has been extremely supportive and has given me the confidence necessary to do great work. She has been a great leader and we all are working hard together to make Jerstad a great school for our kids and our staff.”
The downside for Hernandez is leaving Park’s program, which showed improvement under his watch.
“Park was and still is a dream job for me,” he wrote. “Leaving now is extremely tough. I’ve been a year-round coach in football, basketball and track since I was 22 years old. Its all I know. So in that regard, this is definitely going to be a lifestyle change.
“Secondly, I know we’ve built some momentum around the program. We were doing things in a really unique way as far as our training and practice routines went. We were a few plays away from being a 7-2 playoff team last year.”
Hernandez, who graduated from Kenosha St. Joseph in 2005 and Carthage College in 2009, taught U.S. History, Current Events, and African American History at Park. He served as defensive coordinator for two seasons under predecessor Andy Siegal before taking over the program prior to the 2018 season.
Park had been a longtime state power and won WIAA Division 1 state championships in 1988 and 2005. But largely because of a declining enrollment at the school, the football program went into a decline starting in 2012 and had a 4-51 record in the six years prior to Hernandez taking over.
The Panthers went 1-8 in Hernandez’s first season, but then showed progress. They went 3-6 last season and three of their losses were by a total of 15 points. Leading the way was defensive end Raishein Thomas, who received a full scholarship to Division I Northern Illinois and left Park in January to enroll early at the school.
Park’s improvement was also reflected in its point differential. After getting outscored 227-93 in Hernandez’s first season as head coach, the Panthers outscored their opponents 170-168 in 2019.
“I think if you ask our coaching staff, we made significant progress,” Hernandez wrote. “I remember being down 63-0 to Horlick at halftime my first year as a defensive coordinator at Park and asking myself if I really even knew what I was doing. But you learn and you grow and eventually you catch up if you are determined and humble enough to go through some lumps.”
In a text message, Park activities director Joe Miller said Hernandez made a strong contribution at the school.
“Danny lived and breathed the values at Park High School,” Miller wrote. “We are going to miss him as a teacher and a coach. Park is thankful for his time with us and blessed to have seen his impact on students’ lives.”
Meanwhile, Hernandez believes Park’s football program will continue its upward trend.
“To step away now is tough because I know we had some unfinished business, but the entire coaching staff is still there,” he wrote. “And they are a super hard-working and smart coaching staff.
“I didn’t call any plays over my two years as head coach. My assistants did all of the game planning, play calling and scheme stuff. So I don’t expect there to be any dropoff as I step away. This coaching staff has everything it needs to continue and I think you’ll see that.”
“(Football coach) Danny (Hernandez) lived and breathed the values at Park High School. We are going to miss him as a teacher and a coach. Park is thankful for his time with us and blessed to have seen his impact on students’ lives.” Joe Miller, Park activities director
"(Football coach) Danny (Hernandez) lived and breathed the values at Park High School. We are going to miss him as a teacher and a coach. Park is thankful for his time with us and blessed to have seen his impact on students' lives."
— Park activities director Joe Miller
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