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Norwin school board opens position of girls soccer coach

| Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The Norwin School Board last week voted to open the position of girls soccer coach, which Jeff Palm held for the past four seasons, to other applicants.

Athletic director Brandon Rapp said the district evaluates head coaches after the completion of each sports season, and the board made the decisions on fall coaches last week.

“It was a surprise,” Palm said of the school board's decision. “It was disappointing to hear their decision.”

In Palm's four years as coach, Norwin compiled an overall record of 64-16-4, including the playoffs. The Knights won or shared two section titles. In 2010, Palm's first season as coach, Norwin finished as the WPIAL runner-up and advanced to the PIAA semifinals.

The Knights finished 14-3-2 in 2013, coming in second in Section 1-AAA and falling to Canon-McMillan in the opening round of the WPIAL playoffs.

“I appreciated my time here at Norwin,” Palm said. “I valued the support of the team.”

Palm said he wasn't sure what went into the school board's decision to open his position to other applicants.

A letter read by a freshman player at last week's meeting expressed dissatisfaction with Palm's coaching methods and treatment of players.

“I believe that coach Palm, the women's soccer team coach, should not be reinstated as the coach next year,” the letter began. “Coach Palm has continuously disrespected the girls on the team by making rude comments.”

Norwin players and other supporters spoke in favor of Palm at another board meeting Monday night.

“He has been a lot of the reason for our success,” said senior Abby Churchfield, who played for Palm for four years and was a captain of the 2013 team. “He taught us things that (weren't) just soccer-related. He taught us how to work together and how to be respectful.”

Churchfield added Palm was “always professional with us, always treated us kindly.”

Board President Robert J. Perkins said any comments regarding the decision not to rehire Palm should be directed to the school superintendent, who would forward it to the board. Perkins added that Palm was free to reapply for the open coach's position, and Palm said he planned to do so.

Aside from opening Palm's position, the board voted to retain Norwin's other fall varsity coaches for the 2014-15 school year. Coaches who will return include Mike Buscemi (girls golf), Mary Ellen Ferragonio (girls volleyball), Brian Fleckenstein (cross country), Ryan Hornick (girls tennis), Laura Peery (field hockey), Neil Rushnock (boys golf), Scott Schuchert (boys soccer) and Art Tragesser (football).

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5830, via email at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib. Staff writer Tony La Russa contributed to this story.

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