Nelson succeeds friend Merrill as Saugus AD

Mike Nelson, who has taught and coached at Saugus High School the past eight years, will now add to his athletic portfolio.Last Thursday, Nelson learned that he would succeed his friend Jason Merrill as Saugus athletic director. Nelson’s title is director of athletics and wellness for grades 6 through 12 in the Saugus public schools.”I grew up in the town,” Nelson, 31, said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “I’m very familiar with a lot of people in the town. I’m close with a lot of coaches, a lot of youth groups – Babe Ruth, Pop Warner, youth soccer. I taught at the high school. I am very close with a lot of students.” And, he added, “I have a great relationship with the principal, Joe Diorio.”As athletic director, Nelson will oversee a program that will serve an estimated 600 students this academic year. He will serve in the position on a full-time basis, while also working full-time as the head of the wellness (health and physical education) department.He indicated that his schedule would get more hectic. Among his initial tasks was getting in communication with officials, other Northeastern Conference athletic directors, and the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association regarding sports matters. There are concerns beyond the fall season; Nelson must find a replacement for boys basketball coach Titus Manderson, who resigned to become an assistant coach at Salem State College.Nelson will have some help. Merrill, who has gotten promoted to assistant principal, will provide guidance to his successor. They share a history at Saugus: Both men began teaching at the high school in 2000. Merrill taught wellness for six years before becoming athletic director. He and Nelson became close friends, with each serving in the other’s wedding.In addition to Merrill, two others will assist Nelson: Bob Tibbets, a former Saugus High teacher who currently serves as equipment manager, and trainer Scott McLean, who is also a teacher at the school.During his teaching career, Nelson found time to assist the school athletic program. For the past eight years, he has coached varsity cross country for both boys and girls and junior varsity baseball.His new job comes with challenges, some of them financial. Saugus athletes in every sport but track, cheerleading and cross country must pay a user fee of $350.”There’s a high price to pay these sports,” Nelson said. “The budget we have is minimal. Some local businesses have been more than generous over the years. We hope they can continue.”If the Saugus High community is looking for a positive sign with the new hiring, it can note that Nelson is from the town himself. His family still lives there, although he has moved to Everett after getting married last September. The Pope John graduate attended Western New England College and Salem State before receiving a master’s in school administration from Cambridge College.

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