It was a hard decision for Chris Manfredonia to leave his job as Fairfield Warde's director of athletics and accept a similar job at Darien High School, he said earlier this week. The Darien board of education made the announcement of his appointment last week.
Manfredonia, who started his eighth year in charge of Mustangs' teams earlier this month, will begin in Darien on Oct. 21. Manfredonia, 42, said he has another four or five weeks left on the job in Fairfield. Fairfield Public Schools might name an interim athletic director in Manfredonia's place, said James J. Coyne, Warde's headmaster. Coyne said he will work with the school's human resources department in finding a replacement for Manfredonia.
"Chris will definitely be missed," Coyne said. "He has been everything we could have wanted in an athletic director. He was knowledgeable, committed to the kids and reliable. It's sad that we're losing him. Darien is fortunate to be having him. The plan is to find an interim (AD). And there's no (time table) determined yet."
Manfredonia expressed no dissatisfaction with his job at Warde but noted the attractiveness of the opportunity presented at Darien. A difference in the duties, he said, might be more of an emphasis on the health education curriculum at Darien.
"It's with a heavy heart that I'm leaving Warde," Manfredonia said. "(Fairfield) is a great district to work in. There were great coaches, great athletes and great parents. They were all wonderful to work with. This was not an easy decision for me."
Manfredonia supervised 36 varsity-level teams at Warde, 27 sports sanctioned by the CIAC as well as non-CIAC teams in fencing, skiing, bowling and sailing for boys and girls and dancing for girls only. Adding junior varsity and freshman teams, the total number of teams at Warde was between 50 and 60, he said. His overall budget, according to the Fairfield Public Schools finance and business department, was a little more than a half-million dollars, with separate accounts to cover stipends for coaches, payment of officials, field and gym maintenance, supplies, equipment, transportation and rentals.
"It's a (large) undertaking for any individual to take on an athletic department of this size," Coyne said. "He managed all those budgets well. The kids have what they need, and they get what they need."
Manfredonia's guidance for a new high school aiming to move smoothly into the future and to grow along the way are Manfredonia's key accomplishments in Coyne's view. Warde was in its third year as a separate high school after the split of Fairfield High School into Warde and Ludlowe high schools when Manfredonia was named director of athletics at Warde.
"He was chiefly responsible for firmly establishing the athletic program's identity and culture," Coyne said of Manfredonia.
"He did a good job in establishing that. He established the right culture and values. I'm proud of the sportsmanship exhibited by our coaches and our athletes."