SEBEWAING — After 6 ½ hours of testimony from several witnesses, including administration and the coach himself, the Unionville-Sebewaing Area Schools Board of Education voted unanimously early this morning to uphold the recommendation of former Superintendent Dr. Kip Walker and discontinue the contract for varsity softball coach Lary Houthoofd.
A crowd of 80 to 90 people that attended the meeting - some in support of Houthoofd and some not in support - filed out of the high school library quietly after the decision. Several people gathered around Houthoofd, who didn’t comment after the board’s decision.
“We’re frustrated with the decision,” said his attorney, Phoebe Jacob Moore, of Caro. “But I’m not surprised. It’s rare for any school board to reject the recommendation of a superintendent.”
She said she and Houthoofd will be considering their legal options.
Moore said the board’s decision will definitely hurt the USA community.
“(Houthoofd) has been a tremendous asset to the community,” she said.
Wednesday night’s special meeting in open session was at the request of Houthoofd. He could’ve had the hearing in closed session, said Superintendent George Rierson, who officially took over the position at midnight.
“It’s an unfortunate situation,” Rierson said after the meeting adjourned.
The recommendation to not continue the contract with Houthoofd was based on four overall allegations: mistreatment of student athletes, unacceptable poor sportsmanship, role modeling and communication, inappropriate treatment of staff and volunteers and inappropriate fundraising activity. Examples were given under each of these allegations.
David Revore, of Thrun Law Firm, represented the administration during the meeting.
The following witnesses were called by Revore: Walker, Rierson, Athletic Director Mark Gainforth, former volunteer coach and current school board member George Eurich (who abstained from voting this morning), and former volunteer coach Ralph Hoppe, whom Houthoofd let go in early June.
Other than Houthoofd, the witnesses called by Moore included scorebook keeper Kent Bush, summer softball league organizer Sue Jo Schauss and parent Scott Schaus, who also identified himself as Houthoofd’s brother-in-law.
More information from the meeting will be in Friday's Tribune