A new year will also bring a new athletic director to Port Jefferson.
After nine years, Debra Ferry is leaving the school district to tackle the athletic department at Half Hollow Hills.
“I’m excited and nervous,” Ferry said. “It’s surreal. I established a lot of close relationships and friendships here in Port Jefferson and I’m going to miss the people that I work with. The teachers and the coaches are top-notch; they’re dedicated and compassionate. I love Port Jefferson, but I’m ready to move on and expand my career.”
The Port Jefferson Board of Education accepted the resignation of Ferry at its Nov. 10 meeting, effective Jan. 3. Board President Kathleen Brennan thanked her for her service at the meeting.
Superintendent Ken Bossert also thanked her when reached by phone this week, and wished her luck in her new position.
“I think she did an excellent job being visible within the school community and being a top supporter of our student-athletes,” he said. “We wish her well in all her endeavors. I’m sure she’ll be a great success, and we hope to find someone as committed to Port Jefferson as Debra was.”
Because the school district is small, everyone knew who Ferry was and she had the opportunity to know every student-athlete out on the Royals’ field. Ferry even attended most of the games.
“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.”
Originally a teacher, working in Manhattan for one year and in the Bronx for two before becoming a physical education teacher at Northport in 1999 — while also coaching the varsity field hockey program and working as an assistant for the girls’ lacrosse team — Ferry wasn’t sure administration was the route she wanted to take, but soon changed her mind. After looking for positions, she found an opening at Port Jefferson, where she built the foundations of an ever-growing program and learned the ins and outs of the position.
Among her numerous accolades, she was the 2008 Athletic Director of the Year for Eastern Suffolk County Hoops for Hearts and was a Port Times Record Person of the Year in 2012.
“I love athletics,” she said. “I love the kids on the field and sports and the rules and regulations. The intimacy of a small school district and knowing the kids is definitely a benefit.”
Another benefit was learning how to manage her time, juggling her duties as athletic director, attending games and being the 1st vice president for Section XI, among her other responsibilities and roles as a member of many of the section’s committees.
“It’s a lot of commitment and it’s about prioritizing,” Ferry said. “Being on the field is important to me, not just to show support for Port Jeff but to show support to all of the kids. I see them in the halls the next day and it’s fun to talk about the games with them. Every year is different, every team is different, but the success of the athletics here is all about the coaches and the students.”
The Royals experienced such success this fall, when the girls’ soccer team took home the school’s first state championship title in that sport. Ferry was at the game, and also attended a cross-country competition the same weekend, according to Cawley.
“Going up to states, I felt like I was part of the state championship team,” Ferry said. “The kids make you feel very welcomed and supported. It’s rewarding.”
Although it will be different in the bigger Half Hollow Hills school district, with two middle schools and two high schools, Ferry is looking forward to the new chapter.
For the coaches she leaves behind, it’s bittersweet.
“I kept busting her chops, telling her I’m not letting her go,” Cawley said, laughing. “But I want her to do the best she can do and achieve whatever she wants to achieve and be wherever she would be happy.”
Mike Maletta, a wrestling coach who has been a teacher at the school for 23 years, said he will miss Ferry, who he called a stable force for the program she helped build, including helping to establish the boys’ and girls’ lacrosse teams.
Maletta saw the effects of Ferry’s leadership firsthand, especially with his wrestlers.
“Every time I was at the state tournament with my wrestlers, you could see her walking around with a camera around her neck, taking pictures,” he said. “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.”
He also said she was a big help in staying all day to be an announcer and handle paperwork at the team’s Bob Armstrong Memorial Tournament.
“That right there will be a huge loss for me,” he said. “She was there making sure everything was done, because during the day, I’m all over the place and it’s nice having someone there helping out the program. There’s a comfort level with having someone you’ve known for nine years, and her leaving is really going to affect me.”
Ferry will remain Section XI’s vice president, but other roles will change, as her new school district is in a different conference. She will also remain involved with the New York State Public High School Athletic Association as the female representative for Section XI.
The outgoing athletic director said it’s been nice to feel appreciated and recognized for the job that she’s done, but feels most proud of the kids and the coaches for the working relationships everyone had and for making her feel supported.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to have developed professionally at Port Jefferson,” she said. “I hope I left a mark here. … I am part of the program, but I feel it’s more than that. That’s the benefit to working in Port Jefferson. The coaches and players make you feel like you’re part of the team.”