Board votes 5-3 to retain volunteer coach

By Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item Jan 6, 2012 Updated Aug 5, 2014

Coach Supsic | Patrick O'Connell Law Office
Bob Supslc, an assistant volunteer wrestling coach In the Shlkellamy school district, cries as he hugs his son, Noah, 13, center, and an unidentified woman after the school board Thursday night voted 5-3 on hls relnstatement. Supslc was suspended following an altercation with an eighth-grader in November.

SUNBURY — A jam-packed Shikellamy school board meeting went dead silent Thursday night right before directors voted on whether to fire an assistant wrestling coach who was searching for vindication from allegations he manhandled a student during an Ivy League wrestling practice.

Bob Suspic, an unpaid volunteer coach, sat with his arms folded and listened to the 5-3-1 vote to retain his services.

And then the tears began to flow.

“This is like having 10,000 pounds of weight off my shoulders,” Supsic said while fighting back tears. “I am so thankful and so appreciative for all of the support that my wrestlers, their parents and everyone has shown me.”

The night started a bit heated and had Supsic and his attorney, Pat O’Connell, of Bloomsburg, on the edge of their seats.

Director Jim Garman wanted to ask a few more questions of high school Principal Mike Hubicki, who recommended Supsic be suspended but admitted during Tuesday night’s public hearing that he never interviewed the student or Supsic about the incident.

Hubicki also testified that head wrestling coach John Supsic told him to suspend Bob Supsic, who is the coach’s brother.

In his testimony, John Supsic denied the allegations. He said he never spoke to Hubicki about any suspensions.

“I want to direct a question at Mike Hubicki,” Garman said. “I want to know who told you to suspend Bob Supsic?’

Hubicki said he decided on his own after his investigation.

“So you cost this district tons of money with your recommendation?” Garman asked. “I just want to be sure of that.”

Hubicki didn’t respond.

As the more than 100 people in attendance let out a thunderous applause at Garman’s remarks, director Linda Van Der Pool was asked by director Kim Markunas whether the board could move on and take a vote, even though Markunas did not attend Tuesday’s public hearing and was deemed ineligible to vote by district solicitor Jeff Apfelbaum.

Board member Terry Marshall was absent from Thursday’s meeting, but was on a speaker phone for the vote.

One by one, directors Jim Hartman, Lori Garman, Wendy Wiest and Tom Michaels voted to find Supsic not guilty, while Marshall, Van Der Pool and Mike Kerstetter voted guilty. Markunas abstained from voting.

The next count Supsic had to face was whether he was guilty of coaching while on suspension from the district.

The vote ended the same, with Markunas again stressing she was not present for Tuesday’s hearing.

Again the crowd cheered as Supsic began to cry.

“I am thankful for the school board to give me this opportunity,” he said. “I can’t wait to get back to my wrestlers. They need me.”

O’Connell, who represented Supsic at the hearing, had a few words of advice for the district.

“They have wasted an extraordinary amount of money on this,” he said. “The school administration did a poor job in its investigation, and it showed.”

Shikellamy expects to spend at least $5,000 on attorney fees for the public hearing, including $290 an hour for attorney Jeff Champagne to present the administration’s case.

Champagne spent roughly 17 hours on site in Sunbury, and district officials were unsure how many hours he worked to prepare the case from his Harrisburg office.

Apfelbaum’s billable hours were not readily available, district officials said Wednesday.