Mike Connolly is leaving Portland High to become the Westbrook High athletic director. Connolly was Portland athletic director for two years.

Connolly replaces Marc Sawyer, who left the job at the end of April, citing “personal challenges.” Sawyer was Westbrook AD less than two years.

Last fall, 30 Westbrook students were initially suspended from their teams for attending a party with alcohol, but the suspensions were overturned, allowing some football players to play in a playoff game.

The school administration’s decision brought an uproar from the community as some thought certain athletes were getting preferential treatment. An outside investigator was hired to look into how the discipline was handled and found the high school administrators lacked experience and confidence in their decisions.

Sawyer left his job about a week after seven student athletes were suspended from their teams for attending a drinking party April 22 that was broken up by police.

Sawyer said he decided to leave because of “the incestuous culture of the community, individuals placing their own needs ahead of the overall group and the inability for many to understand appropriate boundaries.”

Superintendent Marc Gousse said the district received about 20 applications for the job. He said Connolly stood out because of his experience working with a diverse student population, evaluating coaches and moving toward a single booster group for athletics, something that Westbrook has been considering.

“His personality is very engaging and outgoing,” Gousse said. “We’re excited.”

Connolly said a key reason he was attracted to the Westbrook job was because the athletic fields are right next to the school, unlike at Portland, and added that another reason is that he lives in Westbrook. It will be an easier commute to work.

“Having control of my own facilities is a huge piece,” said Connolly, 39.

Prior to coming to Portland, Connolly served as an assistant athletic director at Gorham High and then Gray-New Gloucester High.

Portland High athletes use fields all over the city. The Portland Expo and Fitzpatrick Field are the main venues.

“Every game and practice was a challenge to schedule,” he said.

“That’s an issue that will never change. They’re great facilities, but they come with a price.”

With a daughter in elementary school in Westbrook and a 2-year-old son, Connolly said he wanted to be in the same school district as them.

“If I’m going to do this job for a while, I wanted to be in the same system as my children,” he said.

Connolly said Westbrook’s recent issues with athletes attending parties where alcohol was consumed didn’t affect his decision.

“Everyone in Westbrook wants to move forward in a positive manner, change the image and recognize kids who do the right thing. Every school year brings different challenges,” said Connolly.

Connolly said his nomination to be Westbrook athletic director, at a salary of $82,880, will be voted on by the school board next Wednesday. His contract as Portland athletic director ends June 30.

Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at

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