Sussex Central grad Polk to lead DIAA

DOVER — When she was in high school, Donna Polk was always playing something.

A 1987 Sussex Central High grad, she played field hockey, basketball and softball for the Golden Knights.

And, after that, Polk was a two-sport college athlete who later played two decades of adult softball.

“Athletics have been such an important part of my life,” said Polk. “It’s allowed me to experience many things, traveling and meeting different people.”

That makes Polk excited to start her new job as the executive director for the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association.

Polk’s hiring was announced on Tuesday morning by the state Department of Education. She begins her new duties on Feb. 2.

The Georgetown native had been the DIAA’s coordinator of interscholastic events since November 2018. She replaces Gary Cimaglia, who stepped down in October after only two months on the job.

Polk is the organization’s ninth executive director since it was created in 1945. She is both the first female and first African American executive director.

That’s a distinction that Polk takes pride in.

“It’s of extreme importance when you can be the first in anything,” she said. “It’s definitely something that you’re walking into being proud to take on that venture and hopefully be successful in the end with that.

“A lot of people have paved the way for me to even get here in this position. It’s something that I can now look at our young ladies who are playing sports to let them know that, ‘Hey, you are able to be in a position like this.’ It’s a great opportunity to show our young ladies that they can be in position to make a difference.”

Prior to joining the DIAA, Polk worked a short stint at Indian River High, serving as student advisor and girls’ basketball coach.

Before that, she spent 14 years in collegiate athletics, working as associate athletic director/senior woman administrator at Bowie State University and compliance coordinator/sports information director/office manager at Columbia Union College, now Washington Adventist University. 

Polk has experience in administration, game-day management, facilities and operations, compliance and governance, human resources, internal operations and sport supervision.

She served on several campus committees while at Bowie State. At the conference level, she served on basketball, softball, women’s volleyball and bowling sport committees.

She also was president of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association Senior Woman Administrators and served nationally on the NCAA softball ranking committee as well as the women’s basketball national and regional ranking committees.

During her time at Bowie State, she served as head women’s basketball coach for three seasons, compiling a 55-29 record. Her teams reached the conference championship twice and was ranked regionally during the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

Polk also has experience as head and assistant women’s basketball coach at Columbia Union College and head varsity and junior varsity girls basketball coach and assistant junior varsity softball coach at Bowie High. 

Polk was a student-athlete at Columbia Union College, where she was a member of the women’s basketball and softball teams. She scored 1,000 points in basketball.

Polk earned a Bachelor of Science degree in counseling psychology from Columbia Union College and a Master of Arts degree in organizational management from the University of Phoenix.

One of Polk’s first priorities with the DIAA is to fill the position she’s leaving. The organization has only three full-time staff members so being only one person down is significant

After a full year working in the office,     Polk believes she has a pretty good idea of what her new job entails.

“I’m excited to be able to make a difference in our student-athletes’ lives through something they love to do,” she said. “Being in Delaware, to be able to come back home and be able to give back to the community, is definitely a selling point for me.”