Leonard resigns as Oceanside athletic directorMidcoast native signs on as athletic director at Maine Central Institute
Rockland — Jim Leonard has been the anchor of the Oceanside high school and middle school Mariner athletic programs since the inception of the schools.
Before that, the 52-year-old Midcoast native was the roar behind the Tigers of Rockland District High School and wings beneath the Eagles of Rockland District Middle School.
Now, the Mariners will need to look for a new captain to guide its many fleet of ships.
Leonard submitted his resignation as Regional School Unit 13 athletic director to interim Superintendent Michael Wilhelm late last week. He has since signed a new contract to be the athletic director at Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield, another Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B school.
Leonard was the athletic director at RDHS four years and the athletic director at Oceanside the past three years. His duties in those jobs also included overseeing the middle school athletic programs.
Leonard will replace Tom Bertrand and John Dean, who split the athletic director responsibilities last year at MCI. Bertrand and Dean are the school's football and baseball coaches, respectively.
“It was a tough call,” said Leonard. “I hate leaving this area, I hate leaving the coaches, I hate leaving the kids and I hate leaving the families. I'm taking my 10-year-old son [Jackson] with me asking him to leave his friends, I'm leaving my friends. Yeah, it was a difficult decision. But I think it's going to be the right one for us and a new adventure for the both of us.”
Leonard was appointed the athletic director of then School Administrative District 5 (now Regional School Unit 13) in June of 2007, which put him in charge of athletics at both Rockland District High School and Rockland District Middle School.
Then in the fall of 2012, Leonard continued on as the athletic director of Oceanside High School East (grades 10-12) and Oceanside High School West (grades 8-9) when Rockland District High School and Georges Valley High School consolidated.
In addition with the consolidation, Leonard's responsibilities included overseeing athletic programs at Rockland District Middle School, Thomaston Grammar School and St. George School.
Leonard said the fact that he was essentially the athletic director for five different schools was one of many factors in his decision. His new position will only entail him being in charge of high school athletics at MCI.
“My job responsibilities have varied and have been pretty extensive,” he said of his time in RSU 13. “I put a lot of hours in in a week and it became apparent that I was losing a lot of watching my son grow up, and that's a big piece of this.”
Leonard added he wanted his son to have “more varied and unique challenges educationally” and that Leonard “was looking for a new challenge professionally” as well.
Leonard said he feels there has been “some disconnection” with MCI's athletic programs and those that hired him are hoping he can bring some of the great deal of success the Mariners and Tigers have had in recent years to central Maine.
“They want somebody to give them some stability,” Leonard said. “They've been through a few athletic directors over the past few years and they want someone that's going to stick around for a while.”
Leonard said, “What I'm really going to miss here is what we've built,” in reference to the athletic culture, which has been impressive to say the least.
In three years, the Mariners have won four KVAC Class B titles in four different sports (boys basketball, girls basketball, softball and boys tennis), have had six coaches of the year, an over .700 winning percentage from all its varsity teams combined and a state Class B softball title last season.
“When we consolidated clearly there were a lot of pieces that went kicking and screaming, but I really feel the best part of this consolidation has been the athletic programs,” Leonard said.
Leonard's responsibilities as athletic director for RSU 13 will wrap up when all high school and middle school teams have completed their respective postseasons.
He stressed the strength of the Oceanside athletic programs rests with his many varsity coaches, adding that he “couldn't have it any better” in terms of those leading the student-athletes on the fields or in the gymnasiums.
“Our varsity coaches get it,” he said. “They make our varsity programs destinations for the kids below. Just this past week [Oceanside varsity softball coach] Rusty Worcester had the seventh-grade and eighth-grade kids practicing with his varsity team. Those kids get into that practice and they say, 'I want some of that,' and they stick with that sport.”
Leonard is a 1980 graduate of Rockland District High School and a 2002 graduate with a bachelor's degree in communications and a minor in public relations from the University of Maine at Orono.
He joins a list of high-ranking Oceanside officials to resign the past few months, including Oceanside East principal Tom Forti, Oceanside West principal Larry Schooley, Superintendent Lew Collins, who resigned in February, and business manager Scott Vaitones.