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Candidates for North Attleborough Athletic Director make their case

The search to succeed outgoing North Attleborough High School Athletic Director Kurt Kummer has come down to four candidates—and all say they are ready to take on the role.

In a candidate forum at the high school’s media center on March 22, Nick Schlierf, Geoff Burgess, Jim Scanlon and Christopher Schmidt spoke  parents, teachers and staff about why each of them would be the best pick to become the next director.

The forum was conducted in a question-and-answer format, with each candidate taking 20 minutes to answer four questions  submitted in advance. These questions focused on each candidate’s background, experience outside of sports programs, vision of a successful athletic high school department and what they plan to do in the first 30, 60 and 90 days on the job.

Nick Schlierf, who served as the athletic director for the Sharon Schools since 2017, said he has worked with not just students, but staff as well. He said the student-athletes are not the only individuals who make a successful athletics department.

“It’s the people that make the institution,” Schlierf said. “Not just the place.”

Schlierf touted his experience  as the assistant principal at University Preparatory School in Rochester as an example of working outside of the athletic department. A priority for his first 90 days would be to build a working relationship with the staff and athletes.

“I know from my own experience how sports balances out what’s going on for kids,” Schlierf said. “I will work with everybody and get to know everybody.”

Geoff Burgess has had multiple positions in education and while not an athletic director for a school, said his experience makes him ideal for the position. Staff Photo/Adam Bass

Geoff Burgess has worked for the North Attleborough Schools since 2001. He has served as a teacher, coach, curriculum leader, advisor and mentor.

“I know what it takes to be an athletic director because of the work I have done,” Burgess said. “This is my home. I’ve built relationships with coaches and teams over the years.”

Burgess acknowledged he was the only candidate who was not an athletic director for a school, but said his experience makes him ideal for the position. He said one of the first things he would do would be to hold a meeting with the department to see if the teams will work together to create core values for athletes.

“I feel that athletics is the vehicle for those long-lasting lessons,” he said. “Coaching can sometimes feel like an island. I think that one of the first things I would have is an all-coaches meeting.”

Jim Scanlon, athletic director for the Dudley-Charlton Regional School District since 2020, brought a strategic plan with him to the meeting. The plan called for additional guidance for student-athletes who are “being pulled in different directions,” Scanlon said.

“There are few departments that interact with such a broad cross-section of students,” Scanlon said of the athletics department. “In terms of speaking to vision, it’s a collaborative process. It’s tough to say what you’re going to do in the first five to 10 days.”

If chosen as athletic director, Scanlon said competitive success will be an important part of his leadership. His entry plan would include what he called a “practical approach,” learning more about his staff, how the department is handling transportation and transitioning back to events such as parent forums that were put on hold during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Wins matter,” he said.  “We’re trying to start to build those relationships.”

Christopher Schmidt, the athletic director of the Nipmuc Regional High School in Upton since 2015, told parents in the room that as a father, sports mean a lot to him.

Schmidt said the “lifeblood” of Nipmuc was its sports program, as it helps students physically and mentally—building relationships with teammates and building confidence in each other.

“We all share the same kids. We all want to support each other,” Schmidt said. “If a student wants to play football in the fall and basketball in the spring, that student is better off doing those sports.”

Before Nipmuc, Schmidt worked for the Franklin Schools from 2001 to 2015 as a teacher, coach, department head and assistant principal.  He said working as a coach helped develop his strategy for the job of director.

“I can’t walk in thinking that I know everything,” he said. “We need to know the impression of North Attleborough currently, what you want to see it look like five years from now, and how we get there.”

At the end of each session, the audience was provided with a questionnaire on each candidate. A 17-person panel will conduct a final decision in the coming month.

Dan Ferrin, a member of the audience, expects the decision to be close.

“You have to look at this with an open mind,” Ferrin said. “They all are qualified.”

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