Norwin parents upset about status of two coaches

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Parents upset that the Norwin school board has retained head football coach Art Tragesser made their feelings known Monday at a school board meeting.

The Norwin Knights won two football games and lost seven during the 2013 season.

Kathleen Kyslinger, mother of a football player, said players are getting injured because the district doesn’t have enough weight machines so that they can properly prepare for games.

She said she is embarrassed by the Norwin High School weight room because it has only 14 weight machines while a neighboring district has three times that many.

“How are 75 varsity players supposed to get warmed up?” she asked.

One member of the audience asked that the head coach position be reopened so that other coaches can apply.

Other parents and members of the girls soccer team expressed unhappiness that head girls soccer coach Jeff Palm was not retained.

“Coach Palm cared about every one of us,” player Marley Smith said. “He’s one of the best coaches I ever had. He always encouraged us to keep on and never give up.”

Paige Pristas and at least four other soccer players concurred.

“Coach Palm was a wonderful coach,” she said. “He cared about our grades, he cared where we were going to college, he cared about our SATs.”

If any girl was hurt, Coach Palm immediately sent her to the district’s athletic trainer, Paige said.

Kevin Chitester, who served as boys head soccer coach with Mr. Palm as his assistant before Mr. Palm took the girls soccer coaching job, described him as an outstanding student, outstanding student athlete and proud Norwin alumnus.

Several parents also spoke in defense of Mr. Palm, and one of his supporters asked that he be allowed to return as girls soccer coach next year.

The board took no action on the coach requests. 

It did approve an agreement to establish an Air Force Junior ROTC unit for grades 9-12 at the high school, starting with the 2014-15 school year.

Maj. Scott Kolar, who runs the Plum High School Junior ROTC unit, gave a video presentation created by his students at Plum about junior ROTC.

It can include classes grouped into three areas: aerospace science, leadership and fitness, he said. Activities in the ROTC curriculum can include whitewater rafting, wall climbing and radio-controlled airplane and rocket clubs, among other choices.

Norwin administrators have been interested in the program because the aerospace science classes would fit into the district’s focus on science, technology, engineering and math education.

In another matter, Shawn Albright, vice president of operations for First Student, which provides bus transportation for Norwin students, talked about service problems the company experienced this year.

Pickup times that were entered into the company’s computerized routing system by a supervisor were erased by the system when the supervisor wasn’t present to re-enter them, resulting in a “pretty chaotic” first day of school, he said. Some incorrect bus stop times also were posted in the computer system that day, he said.

On Jan. 8, a day of extreme cold, communication problems led the district to cancel school after initially announcing a two-hour delay.

Director Becky Gediminskas expressed concern about the number of students listed as not being assigned to a bus stop. 

“It’s vitally important for children to get picked up and be where they need to be,'' she said.

On Tuesday, Mr. Albright said that as of Monday, about eight students were not assigned to bus stops, but "they'll  be assigned.”

He said bus assignments are done on a daily basis as students move into the district and move within the district.

“We’re extremely confident the database is up to date and that issue is behind us,” he said Tuesday.

At the meeting, Mr. Albright said that First Student employees believe their computer routing system is now working. 

By using Skyward Family Access, parents can see the bus stop times for their children, but they can’t see bus routes or bus stop times for other children, Mr. Stewart said.

School board member Raymond Kocak asked at the meeting if bus video cameras are on when buses are idling, and Mr. Albrignt said they are. Mr. Kocak expressed concern for students’ privacy, saying students sometimes get dressed on the buses when going to away events.

Tracy McNelly, assistant superintendent of secondary education, said Tuesday it is not district practice for students to change clothes on the buses.

“The girls and boys are required to change in the locker rooms,” she said.

Anne Cloonan, freelance writer:

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