Saugus tabs Bunnell as new athletic director

SAUGUS — Saugus has named a new athletic director after a summer of controversy and bickering among town officials over the job’s structure, its parameters, and its applicants.

James Bunnell, who last worked as the AD for the North Middlesex Regional School District, will replace Mike Nelson, who stepped down in June to take a similar position at Greater Lawrence Regional High School.

After agreeing that the AD’s position would be full-time and setting criteria for the job, the School Committee decided two weeks ago that where Nelson was a part-time director — also serving as assistant principal — the new position should be part-time too.

But one week later, the committee reversed itself and restored full-time status to the job.

Bunnell has been an active athletic director for 15 years, also serving in the same capacity at Marian High School. He began his academic career at St. Peter Marian in Worcester, where he was assistant athletic director, a social studies/science teacher, and a varsity boys soccer “Beyond his professional experience, Bunnell has a strong education in the profession,” said principal Michael Hashem in a statement announcing the appointment. Bunnell has a masters in educational leadership from Fitchburg State University. Also, Bunnell is one of only 22 athletic directors in the state with a certified master athletic administrator certification from the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA).

Bunnell is a MIAA certified coach and coaching education instructor and a National Federation of High School Certified Interscholastic coach. He is an accredited sports field safety inspector through UBU Sports Turf. He is double goal coach certified (and working to become one of only 14 trainers in New England) by the Positive Coaching Alliance.

“The Saugus Public Schools is confident that Mr. Bunnell will help our student-athletes achieve success both on and off the athletic fields,” Hashem said in his statement.

Bunnell is only one of three athletic directors on the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism faculty, and is also an American Red Cross certified instructor of adult and child CPR and first aid.

In addition, he is a committee member for the Massachusetts Prevent Injuries Now Network and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Concussion Council. He has served on the MIAA committees for tournament management, swim, technology, and endowment. He is a former executive board member for the Massachusetts Secondary School Athletic Directors Association.

Two years ago, Bunnell received the Ted Damko Award for District E. This award is given to athletic directors within their first five years who make significant contributions to their school athletic department and the MIAA.

Among the applicants for the position was School Committeewoman Elizabeth Marchese, whose presence among the field of candidates cause significant controversy among school officials.

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