Athletic director resigns a year into the job

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WESTBROOK —For the second time in a year, the Westbrook School Department is searching for a new athletics and activities director.

Gary Groves resigned last week after being in the position for only a year. He said when he applied for the position last spring, he was asked if he was committed to the district and was looking to stay for the long run.

“I looked into the eyes of a lot of people and said, ‘yes, I am committed and yes to staying here,’ and I presented my vision for the direction of athletics and activities,” he told members of school committee members at their May 9 meeting.

He decided it was time to step down, he said, to focus on his family, specifically his wife and his 88-year-old mother.  He called the past school year tough both professionally and personally.

“I feel I have disappointed a lot of people, but understand it goes deep and it goes deep on a personal level,” Groves said.

School Committee Vice Chairman Suzanne Joyce, who was on the committee that hired Groves, said it is hard to see him leave so soon, but that she “understands and respects his decision for his family.”

“Even if I would have known he would leave after a year, I don’t know if it would have changed my decision,” she said. “He cares so much for this city. He is so passionate about our students and our teachers.”

Superintendent Peter Lancia said he accepted Groves’ resignation “very reluctantly.”

“I am really going to miss Gary Groves. In just a few short months, he has created and instilled a new vision for Westbrook athletics and activities that focuses on each student and their development not only as athletes but as people,” Lancia said. “What a gift he leaves us with.”

Groves, a three-sport athlete at Westbrook High School from 1977 to 1981, said professionally a lot has been accomplished within the department this school year. He thanked committee members, teachers, staff, coaches and students for the support he has received.

“It’s a great place to work, with a ton of support,” he said.

School committee representatives Chance Gagne and Madison Damon agreed.

“I really appreciate all you have done for the school and I think I can speak for all the high school student when I say that,” said Gagne, the junior class president.

“Thank you for all you have done for me. You are amazing and everybody will miss you,” Damon said.

Damon, captain of the girls’ swim team and senior class president, said she saw Groves’ dedication to the athletic program first hand this winter when Groves drove more than two hours to the University of Maine at Orono to root on Westbrook swimmers at the Class A state swim meet.

This is not the first time Groves has held the position. After serving four years as the athletic director at Portland High School, Groves was hired in Westbrook, but resigned a year later to return to the Portland school system to work as athletic director at Deering High School. After stepping down to focus on his ministry – he is the founder of the Orchard Community Church in Gorham – and fill in as  interim athletic director in Yarmouth, Groves went to work in Scarborough, where he worked for several years before moving on to an athletic director position at Gray-New Gloucester High School.

Lancia said the position began being advertised last week through the school department’s website and Serving Schools. He anticipates a committee made up of school committee members, school administrators, teachers/coaches and students will begin to screen applicants and conduct interviews in early June, with the hope of having someone in the position July 1.

As of late last week, the Westbrook school system was looking to fill anticipated vacancies in a number of positions, including bus drivers, teachers, administrative assistants, noon aides, education technicians, social workers. The department is also looking for a director of human resources, medical occupations instructor and library media specialist.

Michael Kelley can be reached at 781-3661 x 125 or mkelley@keepmecurrent.com or on Twitter @mkelleynews.

Westbrook Athletics and Activities Director Gary Groves submitted his resignation last week, citing a need to focus on his family.

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