About a dozen outraged Parkland parents came before the Broward County School Board on Monday, demanding an explanation for the ouster of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High principal Washington Collado.
While parents said he has boosted student performance and safety, the school was rocked last year by pay-to-play allegations on the cheerleading squad that left parents divided.
Supporters blamed the “disgruntled group of cheer parents” for the district’s decision to remove the principal. Their latest outcry follows a school protest and student walk-out last week that drew hundreds.
Superintendent Robert Runcie said Monday that’s part of the reason he’s removing Collado. He said the attention the situation at Stoneman had received was “seriously compromising” what is typically a discreet management decision.
“There’s conflict in the community,” he said. “We’re trying to remove distractions in this system and move the school forward.”
Collado supported the cheerleading coach after two district investigations cleared her of wrongdoing but the School Board ultimately voted to fire her.
“We have another innocent person getting fired in our school,” said parent Scott Etheridge. “The disgruntled parents are the minority.”
Collado did not immediately return a call to his office. He is one of about a dozen principals who will not be returning to the same school next year.
Leaders of the Broward’s Principals and Assistants Association say their removal is part a new principal evaluation scoring system being used as a “hit list” for administrators who have had run-ins with the teachers union or the district.
“In 20 years, I’ve never seen an action that has been so arbitrary and out of the blue,” said the association’s executive director, Lisa Maxwell.
Runcie, however, insisted the district was not creating a new evaluation system but was making adjustments to school leaders as is done every year. He added no principal was being terminated or suffering any disciplinary action. All would all be guaranteed a position, albeit at another school.
“This is not about a principal’s performance. We want to put principals in situations where they can be successful,” he said. “It’s not about an evaluation.”
Some parents claimed School Board members pressured the district to remove Collado and others said parents in the community were bragging about having influenced his ouster.
“It’s great you’re measuring leaders, but it’s got to be based on facts and merit,” Etheridge said.
Jan Hediger, president of the school’s PTA, said the community would continue fighting to keep Collado. The school is holding a meeting Tuesday to discuss the situation and Runcie is scheduled to attend.
“We’re not done,” she said.
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