Jodi Chmielewski Retains Job as PRHS Girls' Head Soccer Coach
Pine-Richland School Board votes 5-2 in favor of the coach.
Despite some parents' concerns about the way she does her job, Jodi Chmielewski retained her position as the head coach for the girls' varsity soccer team at Pine-Richland High School.
The Pine-Richland School Board voted 5-2 Monday to retain Chmielewski as coach.
Voting in favor were school board directors Stephen Hawbaker, president; Jeff Banyas, vice president; Therese Dawson; Katie Shogan and Kevin Nigh.
Treasurer Dennis Sundo and Director Laura Ohlund voted against. Directors Peter Lyons and Virginia Goebel were absent.
Ohlund said she respected everyone at the meeting and their words, but she knew a lot about the situation and "could not sleep with her conscience" if she voted yes.
"This is one of the hardest parts of being a board member," Ohlund said.
Supporters and opponents of the coach filled the school board's meeting room to voice their concerns.
Cathy Graszl, president of the Pine-Richland Soccer Boosters, said it felt "surreal" to defend the program.
She spoke of the "toll this acrimony has had on the girls."
Graszl said the girls were trooped in and out of administrators' and investigators' offices to deal with "baseless accusations and falsehoods."
Cindy Reynolds, whose daughter Allyn suffered a concussion while playing soccer, said the issue is the players' safety.
After Allyn was hurt Aug. 30 of last year, Chmielewski put her back in the game and Allyn was hit again, her mother said.
The concussion she suffered caused her to go from being an A student to a C student, Cindy Reynolds said, and Allyn still is not cleared to play.
"I ask you to consider the safety of the girls and not the politics," Cindy Reynolds told the board.
When another speaker said the coach should not be removed because one person is unhappy, several people in the audience said "It's not one person."
Soccer player Lauren Keenan, speaking on behalf of more than a dozen players who attended the meeting wearing Pine-Richland soccer shirts, said the players supported the coach.
"We want to start a successful season with Jodi as our coach," she said.
"My heart breaks for these kids," said Debbie Libby, "All they want to do is go out and play their game."
Some speakers painted a picture of Chmielewski as a winning coach who "develops the whole player."
Chmielewski was the head coach when PRHS won the 2005 and 2006 WPIAL championships as well as the 2005 PIAA State Championship. She was named 2005 NSCAA East Regional Coach of the year and Pennsylvania state girls’ coach of the year, according to a flier for her Shoot To Score Soccer Camp.
Allyn's father, Jack Reynolds, thanked Sundo and Ohlund for their votes.
The Reynolds recently received a tape of the game from the booster association, after their attorney pushed for it, Cindy Reynolds said.
Jack Reynolds said 1 1/2 to 2 minutes of the tape are missing and he plans to have the tape analyzed to see if it was altered.
"You need to take a deeper look at this," he said. "You're passively accepting a situation that should not be allowed to exist."
Another mother told the board her daughters would not play soccer for Pine-Richland because of the coach.
Cindy Reynolds said the family plans to file a complaint with the state Department of Education.
"It's not over," she said, "It's so not over."
Allyn Reynolds, who still wants to play soccer, was the last speaker.
The rising sophomore asked the board what she was supposed to do when soccer practice starts Tuesday.
Should she go and take the stares and dirty looks, she asked as she started to cry, "or quit the sport I love because of one person?"