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Leading by Example

Leading by Example: Athletic Director Todd Oliveira Uses Past Experience in New Role

By Sarah E. Murphy 

Todd OlivieraTodd Oliveira learned some of his most important life lessons as a student athlete at Falmouth High School, which he brings to his new role as Athletic Director of Falmouth Public Schools. 

Todd was appointed last spring by Superintendent of Schools Lori S. Duerr, following the retirement of Kathleen Burke, who held the position for 28 years. Although this is his first year as AD, this marks Todd’s 31st year with FPS, having spent the entirety of his career teaching in his hometown. 

Todd originally started off in a part-time position that was split between East Falmouth and North Falmouth Elementary. He went on to spend 16 years teaching various grades at North Falmouth, culminating with fourth grade. He then moved to Morse Pond, where he spent two years as assistant principal before deciding to return to the classroom as a fifth-grade teacher. 

A 1988 graduate of Falmouth High School, Todd was a three-sport athlete, playing football, basketball, and baseball, and serving as captain of the basketball team. After FHS, he played football at Stonehill University. 

Todd cites his Falmouth coaches, such as Mike Rainnie, Ed Winslow, and Bruce Cranshaw (recently inducted into the Lawrence/Falmouth High School Athletic Hall of Fame) for their positive influence. 

He also underscored the personal impact his coaches had on him and his teammates. 

“They all really loved Falmouth, and they cared about us as humans,” he said. 

“How we developed as men went hand-in-hand with athletics.” 

Todd credited his fifth-grade teacher at Morse Pond, Debra McRoberts, then “Miss Woodruff,” for engaging his interest by forging a connection over his love of sports. 

“Larry Bird was just coming up to the Celtics, and she would talk to me about basketball. I was a pretty good student, but that hooked me. It made me excited to go to school every day,” he said. 

The accountability that accompanies athletics also contributed to his academic performance.

“Sports helped me stay on the straight-and-narrow. I always knew I had to get to school on time because I had practice. I couldn’t be late, or else I couldn’t play,” he said. 

Todd speaks from experience when he encourages students to expand their horizons by exploring a new sport or club rather than just focusing on something in which they excel, emphasizing the array of teams, clubs, and programs offered in Falmouth.

“I think playing multiple sports makes you well-rounded as a person, and anyone who feels part of the whole experience is probably going to be more engaged in school," he said. 

"You might be the star in one sport, then you try something else and you’re part of the team. You’re not always going to be in charge; that’s life. But you learn to work hard, and that the team is greater than you."

Todd has been focused on promoting that atmosphere since he began his position, which he also fostered when he served as co head coach of the FHS girls' basketball team with Bob Buscher. 

He also utilizes his experience as an educator, emphasizing the similarities between coaches and teachers in regard to the examples and standards they set for students and players. 

“You’re teaching kids life lessons through athletics: how to reason, how to handle adversity, how to act when you win or lose, how to interact with different people. Your teammates might not always necessarily be your best friends, but you’re all there for a common goal,” Todd said. 

“There’s a quote I like to use and I’m not sure who originally said it. ‘How you do anything is how you do everything.’ We work with our athletes on things like how to leave the field, because how you treat your teammates and coaches may be how you treat your co-workers when you get older, or how you treat your spouse. We need to have expectations and accountability because all those things are going to be helpful in life. Athletics helped me to be a better person, a better husband, and a better father.” 

Todd and his wife, Pam are the parents of three daughters, all of whom attended Falmouth Public Schools - Kalyn, 23, a second year teacher in Wareham; Lindsey, 22, a senior in the nursing program at the University of Vermont; and Hope, 19, a sophomore at Ithaca College majoring in speech-language pathology.  

When Kathleen Burke announced her retirement, Todd decided he was ready to pursue a new professional challenge. 

"I loved being assistant principal at Morse Pond, but I had a young family back then, so it wasn't the right time for me to take on an administrative role. Now that my girls are grown, I have more flexibility in my schedule," he said.

Todd acknowledged Mrs. Burke for her contributions to FPS throughout her career and her assistance as he began his position.

“She was really helpful, and she left a great foundation for me,” he said.

He also credited the recently re-formed Falmouth Athletic Hall of Fame committee for organizing the first induction in several years, culminating with a ceremony in October at the Sea Crest Beach Hotel. Todd offered special recognition to his FHS 1988 classmate Stephen Kapulka, chair of the committee, for overseeing the process.

“Steve did such a fantastic job, and he put so much time into it. It was really inspiring to hear the athletes speak about their time in Falmouth. That's how I want everyone to feel,” he said. 

“I had such positive experiences in Falmouth with coaches as mentors. Because people gave to me, I want to give back, and I hope to create that same experience.”

Todd’s greatest mentor was his mother, Sharon, a single parent who always modeled a strong work ethic for him and his younger brother, Jay. A graduate of Lawrence High School, Sharon worked for Falmouth Public Schools in the Administration Building for many years, originally as Food Services secretary and later in Human Resources. She also juggled waitressing jobs while her sons were growing up in order to accommodate their academic and athletic schedules. Sharon retired from FPS in 2014. She passed away on December 25, 2022 at the age of 73. 

“My mom was everything, and she was all about us,” Todd said. 

“She taught me that no matter what’s going on in your life, you show up every day, you work hard, and you don’t make excuses.” 

His mother also illustrated the importance of personal connections. 

“When she talked about her job, she used to always say, ‘The word ‘human’ is in Human Resources for a reason.' She respected people, and when they feel respected, they feel like they’re part of something. That’s what we’re trying to do in Falmouth Athletics,” Todd said. 

“I learned from her, it’s about people first.”

Sarah E. Murphy