ARCADIA, Calif. (KTLA) — A fight was brewing Tuesday over the ouster of a popular local high school cross-country coach.
For 17 years, Coach Jim O’Brien turned Arcadia High School’s students into winning athletes, even national running champions.
Many claim was a tremendous influence on their lives.
Several weeks ago, the school district let Coach O’Brien go, ending his career.
He said it was because he painted Xs on defective school lockers that were being broken into and students’ belongings stolen.
“We can’t just allow this man’s career to end,” former student athlete Lefteri Christodulelis said.
“So many students need him, students who aren’t even there yet. I know if I didn’t have Coach O’Brien I wouldn’t be who I am today,” Christodulelis said.
Coaching contracts are temporary and given on a year-to-year basis, according to the Arcadia Unified School District.
O’Brien was simply not asked back, the district said.
The district’s decision outraged thousands of O’Brien’s friends, students, and their parents, both past and present.
On the night set for public comment, the meeting had to be moved to a larger location to accommodate everyone supporting the coach.
Dozens urged the superintendent and board to reinstate O’Brien as coach.
“He’s helped hundreds, not just in running. We are talking about kids’ futures, athlete mother Jackie Tsugawa said. “He has been fathers to some of these kids.”
The Arcadia Unified School District has not said when they will decide Coach O’Brien’s future.
His supporters said they will keep pushing for him until he was back in charge.