Parents, students protest ouster of Parkland principal

PARKLAND – More than 200 students and parents rallied outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Thursday, protesting the apparent ouster of their principal next school year.

They say Principal Washington Collado’s contract won’t be renewed because of a new evaluation system that gives disproportionate weight to complaints from a handful of parents.

“I do support getting rid of low performers, but through an open and fair evaluation process,” said parent Scott Etheridge. “This man has done nothing but stand up for teachers and students.”

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A call to Collado’s office was not immediately returned. He has been at the school since 2011.

Collado’s supporters believe he is being forced out because of a cheerleading controversy earlier this school year that led to the firing of Coach Melissa Prochilo. Collado cleared her of bullying complaints made by some parents, but she was ultimately fired by the School Board.

“Collado has only brought good things to this school,” said freshman cheerleader Amanda Kelley. She said he made the school feel safe even after the cheerleading scandal spurred divisions on campus.

Several students walked out of class early to join the rally, flooding the sidewalk outside the school with signs that said, “Keep Collado, he fits,” and “Do what’s right.”

“He cares for the school so much … it’s wrong that they’re kicking him out,” said freshman Damian Intorn. “He shows me that I can look up to a man that goes for education.”

An RV with a large banner that read, “Keep Collado at MSD” circled the school all afternoon, receiving loud cheers from the protestors.

“They don’t know [Collado] like we do,” said sophomore Victoria Degusmao. “He’s the first principal that has made a difference.”

Lisa Maxwell, executive director of the Broward Principals and Assistants Association, said Collado is one of at least 12 principals who won’t be renewed next year due to new standards. She says they are being used as a “hit list” for administrators who have had tiffs with the teachers union or the district.

“[Collado] is the clearest example of why we are very concerned about creation of new criteria … He has some of the best student achievement,” she said.

Superintendent Robert Runcie, however, said the district would never let go of a principal based on run-ins with administrators.

“There is no hit list,” he said. “Every principal is evaluated on an annual basis. We’re not doing anything differently.”

He said the district was still in the process of evaluating principals.

“A proliferation of rumors and anxiety has been created … we’ve got 250 principals. You think it’s unreasonable that there’s a handful of principals that are having challenges?” or 954-747-3033, Twitter: @karen_yi

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