New athletic director ready to hit ground running

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WESTBROOK — When the school sports season starts back up and players begin practices in late August, they will be overseen by a new athletic and activities director.

Blair Marelli, a former principal, athletic director, teacher and coach in the Noble School system, was chosen from a field of 25 applicants to replace Gary Groves, who resigned in May as athletics and activities head just one year into the job.

“It was an incredible pool, one of the strongest pools for an administrator I have ever seen,” Superintendent Peter Lancia said. “There are people with strong backgrounds as athletic directors, coaches and people who were respected around the region.”

The district has also hired Martha Summer, a former human resources director for the city and school department, to take over human resources duties for its 435 employees. The district previously contracted out human resources to the city’s human resource director, but that arrangement was severed with the budget that was approved by voters last month.

Marelli will be the fifth athletics and activities director in Westbrook since the 2013-14 school year. Marelli said he was familiar with Westbrook and its sports program after working as athletic director for Noble School District (SAD 60) from 2012 to 2017. Noble, like Westbrook, is a member of the Southwestern Maine Activities Association.

“I know Westbrook pretty well and have been impressed by the level of competition and the level of support. I am really excited to be a part of that,” Marelli said. “I am really excited about the opportunity and to see where we can go from here.”

Marelli, who will be paid $93,635 a year, said he looks forward to meeting coaches, school officials and school committee members to talk about his vision for the Westbrook athletics and activities program.

Prior to taking on the role of athletic director and most recently Noble High School assistant principal, Marelli worked in the district as a health teacher and coach of the girls track team.

“He has an amazing reputation as a very hands-on athletic director, very personable, very student-centered and really believes athletics and activities are instrumental in forming the who child, which matches our district’s philosophy.” Lancia said. “We will miss Gary very much, but (Marelli) will be a very good successor to the work that has been done here.”

Groves, a longtime athletic director in southern Maine, was hired in spring 2017, but resigned in May, citing a desire to spend more time with his family.

“Gary left things very organized and very tight,” Lancia said. “It will be a smooth transition. (Marelli) is looking to hit the ground running and is excited to get started.”

While state championships have eluded Westbrook in recent years, good sportsmanship awards from the Maine Principals’ Association have not. Westbrook has won several over the last decade, including four straight by the girls’ tennis team and awards by the boys’ soccer and wrestling teams last school year. This is something Lancia said he is proud of and something he said Marelli recognized as important as well.

The field hockey team just missed out on a Class A championship in 2017, losing to Skowhegan 2-1. The baseball team was the last to win a championship when it beat Messalonskee 2-0 in 2013.

Marelli’s first day on the job in Westbrook was July 2.

Sumner will start in the human resources position next week.

Lancia said the district was not unsatisfied with the previous arrangement with the city, but that the new position will ensure the school department’s human resources needs are being met.

“Our needs seemed to be greater than the amount of time we were allotted by that arrangement,” he said.

Sumner worked as the human resources director for the city and school department from 2010 to 2015 when she left the post to become the director of human resources for Cumberland County. She has also worked as human resources director for the city of Biddeford and in the private sector. Most recently she worked as the human resources director of the town of Wells.

“She has a terrific background in HR management in both the private sector and public sector. She’s worked in county government, city and schools, so she has a really strong background in all sort of things,” he said.

In her former capacity as human resource director in the city, Sumner split her time between the city and school department. She said she enjoyed working with the schools and looks forward to focusing on them.

“It is still going to be a lot of work, but being able to focus on one area will be beneficial,” she said.

Lancia said with Sumner’s previous experience, especially in Westbrook, she is a good fit for the new position.

“What I have learned is human resources for schools is different than anything else because of how our benefits work, the way our contracts are written. There is a whole array of things that make school HR unique and Martha has experience with that,” he said.

Sumner was chosen from a field of three applicants. Her salary is $80,900.

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

Blair Marelli

Martha Sumner

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