The Darien Board of Education and Superintendent of Schools Stephen Falcone have found their new director of physical education, health and athletics for the Blue Wave.

After 16 years as an educator and seven as the director of athletics at Fairfield Ward High School, Chris Manfredonia is moving on to Darien High School.

"I saw the posting, and being in the (FCIAC) league currently, I heard about the opportunity and thought it would be a good match," Manfredonia said. "I was very excited. It's an unbelievable opportunity."

Falcone, who indicated that there was no shortage of applicants "including a number of sitting athletic directors and people who had supervisory roles in physical education and health programs," said Manfredonia was a strong candidate for many reasons, not the least of which included his "student-centered" nature.

"Among a host of positive qualities, he has experience and a commitment to our philosophy of putting students at the center of the learning. He is a student-centered person," Falcone said. "He has great energy and passion and we look forward to working with him. Chris comes to Darien with a wealth of experience as a teacher, coach and athletic director. He distinguished himself during the interview process as a student-centered leader who will move an outstanding program forward. He is responsible for the high school interscholastic athletic program, but also the K-12 physical education and health program. These are essential and important features of our K-12 curriculum."

Darien Principal Ellen Dunn also was quick to call Manfredonia "student-centered."

"Chris comes to Darien with a wealth of experience as a teacher, coach and athletic director," Dunn said. "He distinguished himself during the interview process as a student-centered leader who will move an outstanding program forward. I believe that Chris is excited about his future with the Blue Wave and I am hopeful that he will be with us for many years to come."

In October, Manfredonia will take over for Mike Sullivan, who returned to his former role of assistant principal at Darien High School on Sept. 10. Sullivan served as the Darien's AD for one-and-a-half years and was the assistant principal from 2009-12.

"I think it (experience in the FCIAC) will help me since I've been in the league. I'm familiar with other coaches and other athletic directors," Manfredonia said. "I just want to get out in the Darien community and meet as many students, parents and community members as I can."

Although excited for his new opportunity, the decision for Manfredonia to leave Warde, his home for the last seven years, was not one that was taken lightly.

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"I absolutely love Fairfield; the people I work with, the students, teachers and parents," Manfredonia said. "I have all intentions of making this long-term. I'm firmly committed, and I'm in it for the long haul."

In the meantime, former Darien Athletic Director John Keleher, who held the position for 10 years before Sullivan, will serve as the school's interim AD.

"Understanding that Chris would be leaving responsibilities in Fairfield, we determined that an interim athletic director would be necessary given that Mike Sullivan had returned to the position of assistant principal," Dunn said. "We are most grateful that John made himself available to help with this transition."

During his seven-year tenure at Warde, Manfredonia was responsible for overseeing 36 athletic teams and approximately 110 certified coaches.

Prior to his Warde days, Manfredonia was a fixture in the Westport sports scene as a physical education and health teacher at Bedford Middle School before becoming the department chairman for health and physical education at Staples High School for four years.

Manfredonia also coached Staples girls basketball team for several years and has experience officiating football, basketball and soccer. A Newtown High School graduate in 1989, Manfreondia played football, basketball and baseball before focusing exclusively on basketball at Mount St. Mary's College.

Manfredonia graduated from Mount St. Mary's in 1993 before earning his Master's in School Health at Southern Connecticut State University.

"One of my goals is trying to get to meet the kids, coaches and parents on a more personal level," Manfredonia said. "I'd like to get a sense of the community, and I'm just really excited."; Twitter: @jchik17