Public gets say in search for NAHS AD
WEST NORRITON — The Norristown Area School District held a community open forum on Thursday to discuss the vacancies within the athletic department, namely and most importantly at the athletic director position. What is being billed as an comprehensive and transparent process in finding the true successor to the position once held by the recently departed AD, Chuck Knowles, the floor was open to the public to express their opinion in whom the school district should vote into the position.
In addition to the vacancy for athletic director, the NASD is currently hoping to fill positions for varsity girls’ lacrosse, varsity football and for the varsity baseball. The need for an athletic director is expressly urgent with the need to fill the varsity base- ball position as the season rapidly approaches.
Led in discussion by Norristown Area Superintendent Dr. Janet Samuels, she gave the floor to Norristown graduates, former and current athletes, coaches,
students, parents and others with deep roots within the Norristown community. In all 21 people spoke with hopes of aiding in the process of not only finding an experienced person to fill the position, but to find solutions to the ailing athletic programs across the board.
“I want a good AD who’s gone through a successful program at another school,” said Wilmer Cressman, who has been following Norristown athletics since 1940. “He or she must be able to evaluate the coaches … the kids would want to play if they had top-notch programs.”
Cressman and other individuals chose to highlight the various sports in which Norristown went winless or were in the doldrums of their respective leagues for multiple seasons. Citing both lack of commitment within the sports and a lack of direction from an administrative standpoint, various speakers view an ongoing systemic failure that has led to a weak athletic programs.
“When I first started playing field hockey we had both a JV and a varsity team; last season we didn’t have any freshman try out and we had to cut the JV program,” said Eagles goalie Lauren Whitley. “People go to Norristown and chose not to play … and as student that’s really sad.”
Other speakers asked for study tables to help year-long as a support group for student athletes and give them greater opportunities to attend college.
“We need to help kids succeed academically as well as athletically,” one speaker pleaded.
Some were concerned with the process in which the school board was going about choosing the next candidate. While others argued that the athletic director should be found within the community at Norristown, rather than arguing for a top candidate who carries a long list of accomplishments at other large schools.
Legendary Norristown athlete Daymon Carroll was on site not to give his two cents on a candidate, but to ask the community to come together in the rejuvenation of the Norristown athletic program.
“It’s going to take more than one person to make a difference,” Carroll said. “You can’t just say your opinion and then go home, you’ve got to be willing to be unselfish, to think outside yourself, and to ask ‘how can I help?”
Carroll said that despite living outside of Norristown, he’d be happy to come and offer his time for free.
Norristown basketball coach Mike Evans expressed his opinion aside from the microphone that the process in finding an AD should be taken with great care.
“It’s hard to see the kids suffering in various programs,” Evans said. “But, you can’t rush the process, you need the right person, someone passionate about sports who wants to see kids excel. Sometimes those sports are all the kids have, and the kids know that you care about them, it’s being a part of something.”
Speaking with a sense of pride, those who filled the Norristown cafeteria were looking to the school board for a promise of a continuing community engagement in turning the program at NAHS into something success that retains athletes rather than shuttles them off to area private schools.
“There are too many athletes walking the hall who are not on any teams,” said father Jeff Schools who has three children in the school district. “The AD needs to be reaching into the community to find kids who want to play.”
Dr. Samuels was enthusiastic about the input and highlighted the process in which she hopes to find the next athletic director.
“It’s an opportunity to build a stronger program,” said Dr. Samuels, who assured a questioner that the next budget will open up new opportunities for the athletic program at NAHS. “Our goal on the school board is to have an equitable process and to make sure it’s open to the people.”
Interviews for the varsity baseball coach are being held among “very strong candidates” and schedules for February 5. A selection committee will be used to interview the candidates for athletic director with hopes of selecting a final candidate by the board meeting on the last Monday of February. They will make a hiring recommendation to the NASD School Board of Directors, whose approval is needed.
Lansdale Catholic’s Corey Kirk (center) has a shot denied by Pope John Paul II’s James McKeon.
Lenny Bazemore (center) addresses the crowd at a community meeting aiming to discuss the hiring of the next NAHS AD.