Jim Palmer is stepping down as athletic director at Oak Hill High School in Wales. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

When all eyes are on the live action, what happens behind the scenes can go unnoticed.

Sure, games and competitions are decided by feats of athleticism — who runs the fastest, who scores the highest and who jumps the farthest. Yet for those things to happen, it takes administrators who sit through hours of meetings, putting together the jigsaw puzzle that is modern scheduling and gathering input from colleagues, students and parents.

Jim Palmer Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

With the 2021-22 school year and sports season now complete, some of those administrators have left their positions, including Oak Hill’s Jim Palmer, who had been the school’s athletic director since 2011.

Although Palmer had been head football and baseball coach at Gardiner Area High School before leaving for Oak Hill, he had already been the Oak Hill Adult and Community Education director since 1999. Managing both that program and the AD role, he said, simply became too much with adult ed growing in size and scope and COVID-19 further complicating the picture.

“Those positions, they’re both of importance, and I felt like I’m not able to give both the attention they need,” Palmer said. “My first priority is adult ed. It’s grown a lot because you have a lot of people who want to come back and do that right now. I love it because I cheer for the underdog, and those people are all underdogs.”

During Palmer’s tenure, the Raiders’ football team had a magical run of three straight Class D state titles from 2013-15, reaching those games under late head coach Stacen Doucette, whom Palmer had hired in 2012.


Oak Hill has named physical education teacher Brian Daniels as Palmer’s replacement in Wales.

Skowhegan’s Jon Christopher and Maine Central Institute’s Jim Leonard also have stepped down from their positions.

The athletic director job, Palmer, Christopher and Leonard all agreed, has changed greatly in recent years. In addition to the changing structure of Maine high school sports, shortages of coaches and officials and the problems presented by COVID-19, athletic directors today have an entirely new set of dilemmas to manage.

“It’s alarming (to see the direction of high school sports), for sure, especially with the coaches and officials,” Palmer said. “My hope is that we see high school athletics get back to the basics because, at the end of the day, it’s about the kids being able to compete and the community coming together.”

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