The first meeting of the new Littleton Public Schools Board of Education was anything but average, as dozens of angry people filled the normally docile chamber to overflowing on Dec. 12 to support Mike Griebel, the recently fired Heritage High School football coach.
Griebel himself appeared before the board, after listening to 14 other parents, students, friends and coworkers plead for his reinstatement.
“I had no intentions of coming here tonight,” he said. “But I wished to show respect for all these people with self-advocacy. … Commitment and passion make these kids go, and I still make these kids go. I pledge to you all that reinstatement will make you proud. I’ll never let you down.”
Lucie Stanish, during what was her first meeting as president of the board, reminded Griebel’s supporters that personnel matters are handled at the school level, in this case by principal Stacey Riendeau. But that didn’t dissuade the speakers from trying to convince the board to effect some sway.
“This is like living through what could become a best-selling tragic novel,” said Karen Griebel, the coach’s wife and a gymnastics coach at Heritage. She said she would be resigning in protest of how her husband was treated.
“I don’t know what’s happening in our building. It’s something we need to look at,” she said. “You can only hide behind your board politics and your politically correct answers for so long.”
Several students, many wearing custom T-shirts and delivering letters to the board to show their support for their coach, talked about the positive influence Mike Griebel has had on their lives. One young lady said he was enormously supportive after her mother died of cancer, and a young man explained how Griebel was there to catch his mother when she nearly fainted upon seeing his injured knee.
“I bring my defense for him as he’s always brought his defense for me,” said Logan Torres. “I challenge you to find a coach that could ever run the race like he does.”
Kelly Cane’s three sons have played for Griebel, and she’s a teacher and a varsity coach, as well. She said the Heritage football family supports Griebel.
“Coach Griebel has high expectations for our boys,” she said. “He pushes them, he challenges them, he supports them as they work to become the best versions of themselves.”
Many of his co-workers spoke out in his defense, saying Greibel was treated unfairly.
“Nobody deserves to be jerked around like this,” Sherry Rosen, HHS chair of physical education, said through tears. “I guess this means nothing to our administration. It’s already begun to tear away at the morale and trust in our school and our community.”
A letter was sent to “Heritage Football Families” on Dec. 5 stating that Griebel “is no longer coaching” for the school. No reason for his dismissal was given. He had planned to retire from teaching at the end of this school year, but wanted to keep coaching until his son Mikey, who is on the team, graduates in three years.
At the time of the meeting, more than 1,600 people had signed a petition on change.org asking that he be reinstated.