By Elana Glowatz

A hall-of-fame coach will step in as the Port Jefferson school athletic director when longtime leader Deb Ferry leaves in the new year.

Debra Ferry helped establish the lacrosse program at Port Jefferson and has led its other teams to success. File photo
Debra Ferry helped establish the lacrosse program at Port Jefferson and has led its other teams to success. File photo

The board of education appointed Ed Cinelli as interim director of health, physical education and athletics on Dec. 8, about a month after accepting Ferry’s resignation. Cinelli, who was inducted into the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame in 2014 for his work as an educator and a coach, will fill her spot and help the school district find a permanent replacement.

The incoming director spent 30 years in the Patchogue-Medford school district, serving as the athletic director for more than half of that time. Before taking on that administrative role, while still teaching physical education there, he coached football and track — including a 1982 spring track team that, according to the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame, “was recognized at that time as one of the best track teams in the history of New York.”

He has also served as the executive director of Section XI, the regional organization under the umbrella of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association.

“We are very excited to have Mr. Cinelli serve in this position while the search for a new director commences,” Superintendent Ken Bossert said in a statement after the Dec. 8 board meeting. “His vast experience and wealth of knowledge within the areas of health, physical education and athletics will be a great asset to our students, staff and district.”

Until Port Jefferson has a long-term replacement, Cinelli will have a substantial pair of cleats to fill. Ferry, who has been athletic director for nine years, has been credited with establishing the boys’ and girls’ lacrosse teams and is known for being anywhere and everywhere the students are playing.

“The kids are sometimes surprised to see her at games, especially making the hike all the way upstate for big playoff competitions, but she was there,” said Rod Cawley, the boys’ cross country and track and field coach. “In my 32 years at Port Jefferson, she’s been our best athletic director. She’s very honest, she’s supportive and she’s fair.”

Cawley said in a previous interview that when the girls’ soccer team won the state title this year for the first time in program history, Ferry was at the final game upstate — and also went to a cross country competition that same weekend.

“I kept busting her chops, telling her I’m not letting her go,” he said with a laugh.

Another coach, Mike Maletta, who heads the wrestling team and has taught in Port Jefferson for 23 years, said that Ferry was always at his squad’s state tournaments.

“You could see her walking around with a camera around her neck, taking pictures,” he said in an earlier interview. “A lot of those pictures make it to the end-of-the-year senior awards banquet and it went above and beyond what a lot of athletic directors do. She was always there supporting our program and those pictures meant a lot.”

Ferry will remain in her role as the Section XI first vice president when she takes the helm of the Half Hollow Hills athletic program, but her other roles within the organization will change because her new, larger district is in a different conference. She said in a previous interview that she will miss the people and the atmosphere at Port Jefferson.

“The intimacy of a small school district and knowing the kids is definitely a benefit,” she said. “The coaches and players make you feel like you’re part of the team.”