verPaul Holland will not be retained as principal at Westwood Elementary School after a 3-2 board of education vote Tuesday.
The decision came via a recommendation from superintendent Ed Weber, who also considered non-renewing Holland’s contract last May.
School board members Brett Murner and Ayers Ratliff provided the votes Tuesday in favor of keeping Holland.
Parents and teachers spoke passionately in Holland’s favor before and after the decision was handed down.
When the crowd learned the outcome, Holland asked them to not direct anger toward board members and said he respects the decision.
“Please do not vent wrath on these people,” he said. “They allowed me to come in and speak with them last week. I truly believed they listened to me and heard my side of the equation. I firmly believe they want what’s best for this district and for your children. It may be hard tonight for you to comprehend that. I know from hearing about the years before I got here how difficult it has been for your children, for you parents, and for the community. I firmly believe there are people out there who love kids as much as I do and are probably better skilled at the way schools run nowadays.”
Holland was hired in 2015 after serving as principal at Avon Lake’s Westview Elementary School.
He has been a strong proponent of early childhood reading during his time in Wellington, including helping the district join the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program, a nonprofit that mails free books to children from birth until age five.
After the meeting, Weber and board president Kevin Stump provided some insight into their motivations for not extending another contract to Holland.
“Our school district is in the improvement process with the Ohio Department of Education,” said Weber. “The requirements for us to improve school outcomes is hefty. It’s a requirement that we’re under. Westwood has been struggling and continues to struggle. We didn’t really have an option to not make a change. If we don’t make a change, we go deeper and deeper into the state’s improvement process. As painful and emotional as this is, we have to develop an improvement plan. We were a C watch school and we got demoted down to a D moderate intervention school. We really need a turnaround principal to improve student outcomes.”
“Everyone up here has the interests of this district and its children in mind first, no matter what gets said in here in an open forum,” Stump said. “We’re thinking three or four moves ahead. But all along, it’s very difficult to consider all the facts and make a decision for the direction of a district. We listen. We talk for hours on end. At the end of the day, you make controversial decisions that won’t be popular with everyone. I’m a big fan of Paul Holland as a person. He’s a great guy.”
Cindy Kadosky, a third grade teacher at Westwood, praised Holland’s leadership.
“If you can’t get children to love you as a principal, they won’t perform, and the children love Mr. Holland,” she said. “He is professional, greets staff, and will even unlock doors for teachers before they get to the building because he knows we’ll have our hands full. Past principals have just been disciplinarians, and Mr. Holland had to overcome teachers’ feelings of being bullied in the past. He also wears many hats for this district, like taking over certain transportation supervisor duties after we lost our business manger.”
Several Westwood parents, expressing their anger at the board, told stories about how Holland helped their children overcome behavioral issues.
“You’re getting an asset with this man,” said Eric Forgacs. “I’d bet my soul on that. I’d bet all of your paychecks on that. Kids love this guy and respect him. My six-year-old was having a lot of trouble in the mornings and Mr. Holland said to send her in. He just asked her, ‘What’s going on?’ That was it. It was that simple. He said, ‘Your mom and dad have jobs to to do every day and your job is to get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, and come to school.”
“I can’t even explain in words to you how disappointed I am,” said Mollie Diedrick. “I can’t believe that you did this. I can’t believe that a year or two ago you sat in front of all of us and said you’d do what was best for our kids and district. I can’t believe we’re taking the recommendation of a superintendent the entire staff voted they don’t have confidence in. I appreciate what Mr. Holland said about forgiveness. I go to church every Sunday and hope he forgives you — but I don’t. This is not OK. Your decision was poor and you did not think about our children.”
Before leaving, Holland said there was a vast disparity between two poor evaluations he’s received from Weber and those he received from Dennis Mock, Weber’s predecessor.
“Mr. Mock gave me good evaluations and I got nothing but good ones coming from Avon Lake,” he said. “I don’t trust (Weber’s) judgement on this but he certainly has his own way of evaluating. That was my fear of this whole (Ohio Teacher and Principal Evaluation Systems) thing. It can be used as a club. I never thought I would be the recipient but I don’t lay that at the board’s feet. They looked at two bad evaluations from Mr. Weber. That’s the information they had, whether I agree with them or not.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.