GRAY — Duane Greaton was hired as Gray-New Gloucester High School’s football coach despite the objections of a parent who said he had an abusive style and a warning from the school’s previous coach that Greaton was unqualified.
Greaton no longer coaches the team after it came to light that he instructed his players last week to taunt a Yarmouth opponent with the phrase “Who’s your daddy?” because that player’s parents are both women. Greaton was in his first year as the varsity coach after coaching for several years at the youth and middle school levels in Gray-New Gloucester.
Renee Blazejewski of Gray said she told SAD 15 Superintendent Craig King that her son, a junior, would not play football if Greaton was hired.
“We’ve seen his tactics and abuse. It goes as far back as third and fourth grade,” Blazejewski said Friday. “He would get in these young players’ face, grab their face masks and swear at them.”
“I emailed Craig King and blatantly said, ‘Please do not hire Duane Greaton.’ The upperclassmen, a lot of them didn’t come back when they found out Duane Greaton was going to be the coach.”
Mark Renna coached the Gray-New Gloucester varsity from 2014-16, but he resigned in May because he said King told him he would need to hire Greaton as an assistant coach. Renna said he told King that hiring Greaton would be a mistake.
“He’s very unqualified. Oh, you can’t trust him at all,” Renna said Friday of Greaton.
Although Greaton was a youth coach, Renna involved him in events with the varsity team. Renna said during the 2015 season Greaton got into a confrontation with one of the high school players and Renna had to step in, telling both parties to apologize. Later that season, Greaton had another confrontation with a member of Renna’s staff.
Greaton did not respond to multiple requests for comment Friday.
King said he had the final say in Greaton’s hire as the varsity coach. “We hired Mr. Greaton using the same process we use for all of our coaches,” King said in an email. “We advertised in local papers; formed an interview committee, interviewed candidates; the committee made a recommendation to me; and I made the final decision.”
King would not confirm whether Greaton resigned or was dismissed, although he said Greaton’s final day of employment in the school district was Monday.
King did not address whether he knew Greaton had been convicted in 2011 of misdemeanor theft and had served 30 days in Cumberland County Jail.
Greaton was charged with felony and misdemeanor theft in May 2010 after police said he stole more than $10,000 worth of Hood Dairy products while he was a delivery driver.
The felony charge was dismissed and Greaton pleaded guilty to misdemeanor theft by unauthorized taking or transfer, according to court records. The rest of his 364-day sentence was suspended and he was placed on probation for one year.
Greaton has a current approval background check from the Maine Department of Education. A misdemeanor crime is not an automatic disqualifier for certification, said Rachel Paling, the Maine DOE’s director of communications.
“SAD 15 works hard to ensure that all of its employees meet the Department of Education’s certification, authorization, and approval requirements to work in Maine schools,” King said in an email. “With respect to Mr. Greaton, we can report that he met all of the Department’s certification and approval requirements (including state and federal criminal history record checks) before beginning work for SAD 15.”
On Wednesday, the parents of the Yarmouth player sent a letter to King asking for an update on his investigation into Greaton’s instructions to taunt their son. Lynn and Stephanie Eckersley-Ray wrote in the letter that they were appalled by Greaton’s behavior “as it is not only the explicit targeting of a player, but it is also incredibly discriminatory and hate-laden in nature.”
Lynn Eckersley-Ray said Friday that her family would have no further public comments on the issue. They have spoken with King and received an update on the school’s investigation, she said.
Gray-New Gloucester senior Eric Thompson, one of four team captains, confirmed Friday that Greaton told his players to say “Who’s your Daddy?”
“The short answer is yes,” Thompson said, adding that he and his teammates understood they shouldn’t actually engage in taunting. Rather, Thompson said, it was a tactic by Greaton to get the team fired up.
“He wanted us to be aggressive and play hard,” Thompson said, noting that during the game that the Yarmouth player was not taunted.