MANCHESTER — The athletic coordinator at Manchester Memorial High School has been relieved of his duties and the school’s head football coach suspended without pay for two games, as police continue an ongoing investigation into reported fundraising discrepancies at the school.
Manchester Superintendent of Schools John Goldhardt confirmed Raymond Connolly, a social studies/credit recovery teacher at Memorial, was removed from the position of athletic coordinator on Oct. 2.
Connolly informed colleagues and coaches at the school of the news in an email dated Oct. 3.
“I was informed by Human Resources (Oct. 2) around 11:30 that the district has decided to remove me from the position of Athletic Coordinator citing various fundraiser violations over the past year,” wrote Connolly in the email. “It has been a pleasure working with all of you and I have learned a lot about your various different sports as a result of being your AC. You all are a quality group of coaches, you should be proud of what you do, especially with the little support you all have.”
Manchester police spokesman Heather Hamel confirmed late last week her department has been investigating fundraising concerns at Memorial for the past year-and-a-half.
“Concerns about fundraising discrepancies were reported to MPD in June 2018 and there is currently an investigation going on,” said Hamel in a statement. Hamel declined to comment further, citing the ongoing nature of the investigation.
Goldhardt, who replaced former superintendent of schools Bolgen Vargas on July 1, said school officials are “continuing to review and refine our fundraising policies and procedures.”
“As district leadership, we expect fundraisers to not only be transparent, but that all procedures and expectations for fundraising are adhered to,” wrote Goldhardt in an email on Friday. “We expect strict oversight and accounting of funds and that funds are deposited with receipts in a timely manner, and all expenses are accounted for, including receipts. We are reviewing and analyzing all forms of fundraising in the district to assure that procedures and proper accounting principles are followed.”
Memorial varsity football coach Rob Sturgis said Friday he has been suspended for two games: this past Friday’s contest against Londonderry (the Crusaders lost 41-0), and next weekend at Salem.
Sturgis said he did not receive proper approvals for a football team fundraiser that involved the team obtaining discount coupons from participating merchants and selling them to raise money. Last year, the team raised about $20,000 from the fundraiser.
He said no money ended up being diverted from the team. He said the issue is a school district policy that calls for any team to receive approvals from the district before soliciting a business for support.
“It was just miscommunication on the approval part of it,” said Sturgis, who started last season as the head coach. He said he has told the team players that he is being held accountable for his actions, which he emphasizes will happen to them if they don’t follow the rules in life.
“There’s rules in place and I didn’t follow the protocol,” he said.
Sturgis, who works as an academic adviser at a local college, said he does not know why Connolly was fired as athletic coordinator.
He also knows nothing about the police investigation. Police have not spoken to him.
The junior varsity football coach, Dave Gocklin, is leading the team in Sturgis’ absence.
A spokesman for Mayor Joyce Craig’s office declined comment on the situation, because it involves a personnel issue.