Leechburg Area replaces standout softball coach, who was cited for shoving student
The winningest coach in Leechburg Area history was cited for shoving a student four months before he was relieved of his softball coaching duties.
Jim Oberdorf, 70, of West Leechburg was replaced last week as Leechburg Area High School's softball coach after 32 years. He leaves as the district's most successful coach ever, with 544 career wins, two state championships and three WPIAL titles.
For the past seven years, Oberdorf also worked as a bus driver for W.L. Roenigk Inc., which Leechburg Area contracts for its transportation services.
In April, according to Leechburg police, Oberdorf shoved a 16-year-old student on his bus and used an obscenity. The bus, which was parked on Siberian Avenue behind the school buildings, was full of students at the time.
Leechburg police cited Oberdorf for harassment and disorderly conduct, both summary offenses.
He was found guilty of harassment before District Judge James Andring in July and ordered to pay a $200 fine. The judge found him not guilty of disorderly conduct.
Jean Stull, Leechburg Area School Board president, would not say on Wednesday whether the April incident was the primary reason the board did not renew Oberdorf's contract.
“The board cannot speak publicly on personnel matters,” Stull said. “I want to make it clear, though, that in my mind (Oberdorf) wasn't fired.
“Any supplemental position is a year-to-year position, and the board reserves the right to retain or not retain any of the people that serve those positions each year. This was a softball decision.”
Oberdorf will be replaced by Debbi Young, a district elementary school teacher, junior varsity volleyball coach and cheerleading coach. The board was drawn to Young, according to Stull, for her involvement with the Amateur Softball Association and her ability to assist her players with college recruiting.
“After we interviewed (Young), we felt really good about it,” she said. “We thought it was time to give someone a chance.”
Stull said the board was made aware of Oberdorf's incident shortly after it happened. Since Oberdorf was a Roenigk employee, she said, the board took no action. Officials did not contact the company to bar Oberdorf from Leechburg Area bus routes.
Oberdorf said he resigned from Roenigk shortly after the incident for unrelated personal reasons. Company co-owner Sue Roenigk confirmed that Oberdorf had resigned.
His last check was delivered April 17. The bus incident occurred seven days earlier.
Oberdorf did not deny pushing the student or using an obscenity. He said the incident was the culmination of three days worth of harassment from the student.
“For three days he was harassing me, calling me a ‘tough guy,' ” he said. “I kept telling him I didn't appreciate that talk on my bus. On Thursday, he walked past me and said something.
“When I stood up, he turned around really quickly and said something or did something and I ‘checked' him to get away from me.”
Oberdorf said he used profanity “because it's the language of kids these days and (he) wanted to deliver the message.”
The student, Jacob Jendrejewski of West Leechburg, declined to comment but requested to be identified. The Valley News Dispatch typically does not reveal the names of minors in sensitive situations.
Jendrejewski's mother, Charlene Hinko, said Oberdorf's accusations against her son are false, noting that he should have filed cross harassment charges if they were legitimate.
“It's unacceptable under any circumstances to put your hands on a child,” Hinko said. “When any parent puts their child on the bus in the morning, they always hope that they'll return safely and that they're in no way verbally or physically abused in any way.
“The last thing any parent would expect is that a teacher, bus driver or cafeteria worker would assault their child in this manner.”
Braden Ashe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4673 or firstname.lastname@example.org.