Some parents have decided to fight to keep Paul Holland as principal at Westwood Elementary School.
The Keep Mr. Holland Facebook group was started by Sara Schramm and Anita Forgacs after a split May 15 vote by the board of education against renewing Holland’s contract.
He was hired in 2015 after serving as principal for 13 years at Avon Lake’s Westview Elementary School. The Wellington board cited poor test results at Westwood and pressure from the state as reasons for its decision.
Westwood parents convened over the weekend at Wellington Community Park to make T-shirts emblazoned with messages supporting Holland.
Students were spotted wearing them at school on Monday. Many shirts portrayed a fist bump Holland is known for when greeting kids as they arrive at school.
“I’m honored they feel like my efforts here are worth fighting for,” said Holland. “As I’ve told many of them, I’m not perfect. I know there are some areas where I can do better. I’m just very grateful for their effort and their kind gestures. Certainly, I love the kids and I’d love to stay.”
Heather Smith, mother of a Westwood student battling cancer, spoke Friday on her experiences with Holland.
“I’m upset because I feel like the school board is focused more on state testing than the character of this principal and how he affects our kids,” she said. “They’re going to want to bring in someone to bully the teachers and put more pressure on them to get the scores they want. In turn, that will put more pressure on the students. That will not be good for the school.”
An assessment of Westwood by Oregon-based Northwest Evaluation Association placed 44 percent of students at “basic” or “limited,” its two lowest ratings. Westwood also fell from a C to a D grade under the Ohio Improvement plan from 2016 to 2017.
Holland refused to sign an evaluation on April 23 from superintendent Ed Weber that called the principal “ineffective” in school operation, instruction, and continuous improvement.
A two-year-old evaluation by Dennis Mock, Weber’s predecessor as superintendent, called Holland “skilled” in instruction and continuous improvement as well as “accomplished” in school performance, parent engagement, and collaboration.
Weber also wrote in evaluations that Holland has at times not provided tracking data needed to measure students’ progress.
“Mr. Holland was the gym teacher the other day because there wasn’t anyone else around to do it,” said parent Mollie Diedrick. “He’s also, by default, the school guidance counselor. He’s out there at recess, at car pickup, and reading books with the kids. If he’s having trouble with information and paperwork, find someone to help him. Our kids are more than statistics and scores anyway.”
Holland’s contract is set to expire at the end of July. Parents said they’re considering filing a petition to keep him on as principal.
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.