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norwell

Anger, confusion over lacrosse coach’s exit

After four winning years as the boys’ varsity lacrosse coach at Norwell High School, Chris McGuirk has been told he will not be back for the spring 2014 season.

The decision by the school administration not to renew McGuirk’s contract has puzzled some Norwell parents and angered others — so much so that a number of them say they plan to attend the Nov. 18 School Committee meeting to demand answers and call for McGuirk’s reinstatement.

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A Facebook page titled “Reinstate Coach Chris McGuirk” had garnered some 600 “likes” by Tuesday, and a petition asking school Superintendent Matthew Keegan to reverse his decision has also been circulating online.

“This decision came as a shock to me and to many others,” said Paul Abbate, president of Norwell Boys Youth Lacrosse, which has more than 400 participants from kindergarten through eighth grade. “Chris is a guy who is completely dedicated to the game and sport of lacrosse — not just at the high school level, but at the youth level, too.”

McGuirk, a financial adviser who was born and raised in Norwell and lives in town with his wife and three young children, said that on the advice of his lawyer, he did not want to say too much.

“I can say that I was shocked, surprised, upset, angry. . . I was completely blindsided by this,” McGuirk, 38, said on Tuesday. “I was never told anything by my superiors other than I was doing a great job.”

McGuirk said he wants to get his job back and clear his name. “There are a lot of questions out there,” he said.

‘I was completely blindsided by this. I was never told anything by my superiors other than I was doing a great job.’

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McGuirk was called into Norwell High School principal William Fish’s office on Oct. 17 and told by Fish that his contract, which pays about $4,000 a year, would not be renewed for next season. He said he was told that his side business, North River Lacrosse, could be perceived as creating a conflict of interest with his role as the varsity lacrosse coach who oversees the junior varsity and freshmen coaches, too.

North River Lacrosse is a youth program that offers clinics and camps and has club teams for youngsters in the area.

Fish did not return repeated phone calls, nor did Scott Paine, the high school athletic director.

School Committee member Mary Lou O’Leary said she had no comment on the matter, while other members could not be reached.

Keegan, the superintendent, declined to be interviewed. “As a matter of policy, the Norwell Public Schools do not comment on internal personnel decisions,” he said in an e-mail.

“I can confirm that I have discussed reappointment with Mr. McGuirk, and that I have decided to post the position of Head Coach for the boys lacrosse team for the 2014 season,” Keegan wrote. “I wish Mr. McGuirk well and thank him for his service.”

The boys’ varsity lacrosse team at Norwell High has won 48 games and lost 27 over the past four seasons with McGuirk as coach. The Division III team made it to the state finals four years ago, and the semifinals two years ago.

Jason Pithie, who in addition to being McGuirk’s lawyer is president of the Norwell Youth Football Program and has a son who participates in the North River Lacrosse program, said many high school varsity coaches run camps, clinics, and other off-season programs for young athletes.

“And there are many area high school coaches who work for the North River program,” Pithie said. “This hasn’t been an issue in the past.”

Paul Wetzel, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, said it is “fairly common” for high school coaches to also run or participate in an out-of-school coaching program.

“I don’t know the details of this case. It’s not the business of the MIAA because we have nothing to do with the individual hiring of coaches,” he said. “A coach is an employee of the school district and it is up to them who they hire and who they let go.”

Some parents whose children play for McGuirk — either in the youth program or in high school – say that a handful of disgruntled parents who believe their youngsters should be getting more playing time are behind the school administration’s decision not to renew McGuirk’s contract.

“I’m shocked and disappointed,” said Paul Connolly, whose children have participated in McGuirk’s youth lacrosse program. “I’m not sure what’s going on here, but high school coaches running club teams and camps and things like that are the norm, not the exception.”

Connolly praised McGuirk as a coach, recalling a situation in which McGuirk had excluded Connolly’s son from the fifth-grade club lacrosse team.

“Chris took it upon himself to call my son and tell him why he cut him, what he could do to improve, and tell him that he hoped he would stay with the sport,” Connolly said. “He said he would help him in any way he could. How many coaches would do that? He’s a classy guy.”

Juliet Pennington can be reached at writeonjuliet@comcast.net.
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