Students stage walkout to protest principal's reassignment
PARKLAND, Fla. (WSVN) -- Hundreds of students joined parents and supporters of a South Florida high school principal as they staged a walkout during Thursday's last period of classes to protest his reassignment at the end of the school year.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School principal Washington Collado is not being fired from the district, but Broward County Schools administrators gave him a poor rating using a newly-implemented evaluation system they now employ to grade principals. As a result, Collado was informed he will have to step down from his post in June.
Protesters rallied outside the school Thursday afternoon, holding signs and chanting "Keep Collado." The school leader is one of 50 principals being affected by the district's new grading system, which was introduced by Superintendent Robert Runcie's office.
Student Brittney Bolger suspects politics might be the real motive behind the district's decision. "Clearly, this is more about political connections and the way they can get through to people than about his educational ability," she said.
According to the Principals Association, Collado was described as a poor performer, bestowing on him a "D" rating for the previous school year. Collado nevertheless received the top overall rating of "highly effective" on his final 2011-2012 evaluation.
Supporter Demi Morgia was confused by the disparity in evaluations. "Why change this? Why do you get a great review two months ago and then say you don't have your job next year? That doesn't make any sense," she said.
"He's being targeted, said parent Scott Ethridge. "We may have to go to the Inspector General of the State of Florida and look into the ethics of this, because I'm not sure it's being done with independence and based on fact," he added.
Many opponents of the school district's decision attribute Collado's low grade to a 2012 scandal in which cheerleader coach Melissa Rochilo was accused of bullying but was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing. "He didn't do anything wrong," Rochilo said, "he's the most hands-on principal. The school has never been cleaner, the scores are the highest in the district. Why would you mess with the principal?"
Karla Cabral, Collado's niece, echoed the large crowd's sentiment and vouched for his integrity. "My uncle is respected on a local, national and international level," she said. "He is a man of values, he has morals, he understands what a family is. He knows what commitment is, and that's what he represents as an individual," she continued.
When parents heard about Collado's upcoming reassignment this weekend, they started flooding Runcie and School Board members with e-mails and calls. They also took to Facebook and Twitter to voice their concerns.
Three years ago, Collado was a runner-up for a "Principal of the Year" district award. His school was previously ranked highly at state and national levels by publications like "Newsweek" and "The Washington Post."
Broward School Board representatives did not return 7News' calls for comment.
(Copyright 2013 by Sunbeam Television Corp. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)