NORTH SALEM, N.Y. – Five months after being named North Salem’s “interim” athletic director, Denise Kiernan has been given the full-time gig until at least the end of the 2022-23 school year, when her probationary period ends.
Her appointment as the district’s director of K-12 physical education, health and athletics was unanimously approved Wednesday, Dec. 4, by the Board of Education.
Kiernan came to North Salem in July after spending two years at Sleepy Hollow. Before that, she was at the Glen Cove School District for seven years. At North Salem, she replaced Henry Sassone, who spent more than three decades as the district’s athletic director.
Kiernan said she feels at home in North Salem.
“When you find the right place, you know,” she said.
Now that she’s shed the interim tag and has spent five months working in the community, Kiernan spoke to North Salem News about some of her long-range plans for North Salem athletics. On her agenda is partnering with the district’s Fields Committee to bring a turf field to the middle school/high school campus.
Kiernan said a turf field would greatly benefit North Salem student-athletes and youth sports organizations. The field could also allow the district to host night games and tournaments.
“It’s important for the community,” Kiernan said.
Because many rival schools already have turf fields, North Salem teams are at a competitive disadvantage when they play on the road or at neutral sites against teams that are used to playing on the artificial surface, Kiernan said.
Kiernan also hopes to contract the services of LocalLive, a service that broadcasts athletic competitions and other district events.
Though cameras and a new turf field would help Kiernan usher in a new era of North Salem athletics, the biggest change she brings to North Salem is in her presence and the way she communicates with parents, student-athletes, coaches, the booster club, and other stakeholders on issues such as the college-bound process, sportsmanship and leadership.
Kiernan, who lives on Long Island, commutes about 90 minutes each way to and from North Salem. Still, she manages to attend nearly every North Salem home game (and some road ones), posting results and highlights to social media (@NS_Tigers on Twitter). Kiernan does this, she said, because it’s important to promote the athletic department and “build a brand.”
In the same vein, she is also working with coaches to become advocates for their programs, teams, and student-athletes.
Kiernan, who played Division I soccer at St. Bonaventure University, said she hopes to allow student-athletes “to learn about the college-bound process and the opportunities that exist with academics and athletics.
“There is a school for all student-athletes,” she said.
In addition to athletics, Kiernan’s responsibilities include the supervision of all K-12 health and physical education teachers, curriculum, wellness, and intramural programs.