PAWTUCKET — In rather brisk fashion, the winds of change have swept through the top tier of the athletic department at St. Raphael Academy.
Fred Saunders will step aside as the school’s athletic director at the end of the month, giving way to a new face who is also being brought aboard as a fulltime physical education teacher at the local private Catholic high school. In Ray Tanguay, the Saints are getting an individual with three-plus decades as a coach and educator in the North Kingstown School Department. More recently, Tanguay served as an Adjunct Instructor at URI’s Department of Kinesiology.
“We’ve always wanted to have a full-time presence at the school to take care of the athletic director duties, but we never had a candidate that would allow us to make that leap,” said SRA President Dan Richard. “It’s so critical because there are just so many things that come up over the course of the day. Plus you have the opportunity to build a good rapport with the athletes that you see throughout the day.
“I love Fred. He’s done a great job for the school,” Richard continued. “I have nothing but the highest respect for Fred. I enjoyed working with him, but I know Mr. Tanguay is going to go on and do great things.”
Serving as the chief overseer of SRA sports since predecessor Bruce Gammell resigned just prior to the start of the 2011-12 school term, Saunders doubles as the head coach for the girls’ varsity basketball program. This past season saw Saunders guide the Saints to a perfect regular season (16-0) in Division II-Central before falling to Rogers in the title game.
As of right now, Saunders has every intention of remaining at St. Raphael in a coaching capacity. Things could change, however, based on what his next move entails job-wise.
“I guess that’s the caveat,” Saunders expressed. “If I’m able to coach, I will coach. That’s what I’m hoping.”
Richard did not completely shut the door when asked about Saunders’ coaching future at Saints.
“That’s to be determined. We’re looking at all different options and that is something the new AD will have to sit down and talk with me about,” said the St. Raphael president. “We’ll make a determination at that time.”
Saunders being relieved of his athletic director responsibilities coupled with Tanguay being handed the keys is a fairly recent development. According to Saunders, he was informed last Wednes-day that due to budgetary concerns, his position, which was part-time, was being cut.
“It was news to me when I was told. They are trying to make cuts to make the school more viable. Unfortunately, that happened to be my job,” Saunders said. “I’m not happy. I wish I was still the AD, but I’m not. You’ve just got to move on.”
Richard mentioned that St. Raphael had a strong group of applicants to select from. He also served as the point man to find Saunders’ replacement. When the school went about the process of finding an athletic director following Gammell’s departure nearly three years ago, then-Principal-President Maryann Donohue-Lynch formed a five-person selection committee that was handpicked by her.
When Saunders officially stepped into the breach in November 2011 – initially he was named on an interim basis prior to becoming a permanent hire – he was told that the possibility of transitioning the athletic director’s role into full-time employment was on the drawing board. Richard confirmed earlier this week that it’s still a part-time job.
“It was a part-time position with no benefits, but that didn’t matter to me. I loved doing it and worked hard. I certainly liked working with the student population,” Saunders noted. “It’s cumbersome. Personally, I think it’s a full-time position. I knew what I was getting into when I took the job.”
Saunders was a financial advisor prior to assuming the AD duties at St. Raphael. Asked if he sees himself returning to the financial world, he answered, “This gives me an opportunity to reassess some things. I’ll see what doors open up.”
The plan is to have Tanguay start before the end of the month. “They’ll be a little bit of a crossover,” Richard said.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03