Saturday, February 22, 2014
EASTHAMPTON — Easthampton High School Athletic Director Jeffrey Sealander is leaving the district at the end of the month for personal, family reasons after four years as head of athletic programs and more than 35 years with the city schools.
Sealander, 61, who is also a former principal of EHS, said his Feb. 28 departure is “totally for personal reasons. It has nothing to do with the job.”
He declined to elaborate.
John Opatkiewicz, who was EHS athletic director from 2005 to 2010, will serve as interim director through the end of the school year, according to city school administrators.
Easthampton High School Principal Vito Perrone is leading a search panel for a permanent replacement for Sealander. The job, which has a start date of July 1, has been posted at an annual stipend of $14,780.
Perrone said Sealander’s contributions to the high school go well beyond his leadership of athletic programs in Easthampton.
“His compass is the kids,” Perrone said. “They love him and he is a huge member of the community. He’s been a mentor, a friend, a sounding board. He’s also an organizational genius.”
Superintendent Nancy Follansbee said Sealander “is well respected and has contributed selflessly to our district.”
In particular, she cited Sealander’s role in helping to design the city’s new high school building and oversee the transition to the new space last spring.
“He knew just what we’d need to support our athletic programs,” Follansbee said. “It was also important to have him as we transitioned to the new high school. He knows so much about the history. He was the one who took all the trophies out and figured out where to put them in the new building.”
Sealander, who lives in Easthampton with his wife, Michelle, cited the new high school as the biggest change he experienced during his tenure as athletic director.
“It gives the students a state of the art facility and state of the art equipment that we didn’t have,” he said. “I’d say it’s the biggest thing we’ve done over the past four years.”
A city native and a 1970 graduate of EHS, Sealander started work in the district in 1974 as a social studies teacher. He became assistant high school principal in 1986 and two years later, moved into the principal’s post.
In that role, Sealander helped establish EHS’s first football team in 1998, as well as a block schedule that enabled students to take more electives at the high school.
Sealander retired in 2009 as EHS principal. He returned to the school department the following year to take over as high school athletic director after Opatkiewicz resigned.
Perrone said having Opatkiewicz return for a stint as interim athletic director will provide continuity during the spring sports season.
“Though it’s not as heavy a time for competition, it is a time when we are preparing for the fall,” Perrone said.
Perrone has established a search panel that includes students, coaches, booster club members and administrators. He said the group plans to begin interviewing candidates for the permanent athletic director’s position in early March.
When asked how students are feeling about Sealander’s departure, Perrone said the only ones who know about it so far are those serving on the search panel.
When word gets out, it will be tough on the school community, he added.
“Jeff is someone who’s done it all,” Perrone said. “He’s a fantastic individual and he’s going to be missed.”