GARDINER — Steve Ouellette got a pretty good feel for Gardiner Area High School athletics and the community in general when he took over as interim athletic director and assistant principal at the school in February.

“I really felt good about being there,” Ouellette said.

Unsure if that job would open up permanently, Ouellette applied for and was hired for a similar position at Dirigo High School. Shortly after that, Gardiner athletic director Jeff Turnbull resigned after nearly five years on the job and Ouellette applied for the Gardiner job and was approved for the position by the school board last week.

“A couple of weeks ago Jeff resigned and I was able to work things out with the Dirigo people,” Ouellette said. “They were very understanding.”

Gardiner is closer to Ouellette’s home in Winthrop and he grew to enjoy the community in his few months there.

“There’s a great sense of Tiger pride there,” he said. “Kids are excited about being Tigers and representing their school, their family and their community.”

Ouellette has an extensive background in athletic coaching and administration. He served as AD and assistant principal at Monmouth Academy for seven years and before that held a similar position at Lawrence High School. Prior to that he was a teacher at Livermore Falls High School for 17 years where he coached baseball and football.

He’s interested in meeting more members of the communities that serve Gardiner to get their thoughts on athletics in general and improvements in particular.

“There are definitely some physical plant improvements (needed),” he said. “It would be great if we could rally the community to find a way to make some improvements.”

Budget cuts have already claimed the cross country program next fall and a greater burden is being placed on community members to contribute to specific athletic programs or projects. A tight budget was nearly responsible for moving football from Friday nights to Saturday afternoons to save the money it costs to light the field. But the boosters club stepped in to fill the void.

“We’re going to play Friday nights,” Ouellette said. “We’re in the process of fundraising. That’s a very important part of this community. We’re going to try to maintain that.”

Ouellette also stressed a tightening of the link between youth sports, middle school and the high school with an emphasis on health, fitness and participation.

“I hope we can involve all of our kids,” he said.

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

[email protected]

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