Paul Holland will stay on for at least one more year as principal at Westwood Elementary School.
That decision was made Tuesday by the Wellington board of education, which had considered not renewing the contract of both Holland and McCormick Middle School principal Craig Housum.
A vote on Housum’s contract was tabled until the board’s next meeting in June. Tina Drake, principal of Wellington High School, saw her contract renewed for two years.
Parents and school staff members packed into Westwood’s gymnasium to speak on behalf of Holland, who came to Wellington in 2015 after serving as principal at Avon Lake’s Westview Elementary School.
“I was extremely shocked and disappointed when I learned Mr. Holland might be let go,” said Tiffany Gancos, a parent of Wellington students. “I was very angry. I know several other parents in attendance here felt the same way. When I called (superintendent Ed) Weber to ask him why, I was told to look at the report card for the school district.”
The Wellington Schools received an overall D on the 2016 Ohio Report Card and F’s in progress, elementary reading, and gap closing. Wellington was among the many districts to see grades plummet as the state’s grading practices, such as counting students who opt out of state testing as a zero score, have endured criticism.
“I looked at our report cards and they’re bad,” said Gancos. “But so are all the other elementary schools in Lorain County, expect for Avon, South Amherst, and parts of Sheffield. The state changed our testing in 2015 and 2016. That’s when our (kindergarten) through third grade literacy dropped out across the county. Either Mr. Holland is responsible for the entire county failing or there’s a problem with the testing that results in our low scores.”
Holland said he was honored by the show of support but offered no additional comments. He is Westwood’s fifth principal since 2010.
“We get people here but we can’t get them to stay here,” said parent Mollie Diedrick. “There’s been a constant change in leadership from superintendent to administrators. That leaves students and teachers without a standard or constant design to adhere to. Its negative effect can be seen in so many ways. Mr. Holland is a quality leader and wonderful educator. He wants to be here and that’s huge for us. My four-year-old doesn’t attend Westwood but knows Mr. Holland by sight and by name.”
Comments in support of keeping Holland were accompanied by many calling for Housum to be let go.
“Everything I’ve stated about Mr. Holland is the complete and utter opposite with Mr. Housum,” said Gancos. “He doesn’t create an environment where children are excited to learn. He doesn’t create an environment where students want to go to school and meet the expectations of teachers. I’ve seen a complete breakdown since my child has started attending McCormick. I’m scared my child won’t be ready for high school in two or three years.”
“If you call or email Mr. Holland, he gets back to you the same day,” said Cindy Buck. “I’ve emailed Mr. Housum countless times and it was a week, maybe two, before I heard anything back. I’d see him out in public and he’d say he meant to email me but forgot. Communication is vital, and before Mr. Holland came here, we had none.”
Housum was not present at the meeting Tuesday due to a scheduling conflict, said Weber.
The board’s decision came after a one-hour session behind closed doors on Tuesday and another on Monday.
Weber said he and the board had not made up their minds on the principals until after the private discussions, presentations from both Holland and Housum, and hearing the public’s comments.
“I don’t think we had a plan because we were still meeting with the principals as part of the required process,” he said. “We had the opportunity to hear the directions the principals wanted to take their school. Rumors went around that we might do this or do that. That’s understandable, though, because we didn’t want to announce what we were doing until after hearing from everyone involved.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.