Paul Holland will not be reinstated as principal this fall at Westwood Elementary School following a behind-closed-doors discussion by the Wellington board of education.
Parents and teachers packed the Westwood gym to speak on Holland’s behalf on Tuesday, June 26 — then superintendent Ed Weber and board members held a private 90-minute session.
When the public meeting resumed, attendees were told Holland would not be brought back.
The board voted 3-2 to not renew Holland’s contract on May 15, citing an earlier evaluation of the principal by Weber that called him “ineffective” in improving Westwood’s state test and Ohio Report Card results.
That decision prompted an impassioned response in the district consisting of a “Keep Mr. Holland” online and T-shirt campaign as well as a widely circulated petition.
Holland narrowly escaped losing his job at the end of the 2017 school year thanks to a similar response from parents and teachers.
Weber said the latest board decision was also based on a June 25 report from the Ohio Department of Education that revealed more than half of Westwood kindergartners along with 20 second-graders and 10 third-graders aren’t reading at their appropriate grade levels.
The report also gave Westwood an F grade in kindergarten-through-third-grade literacy for this past school year.
“Our goal isn’t to try and bring about heartache and negativity,” Weber said after the meeting. “We appreciated all of the input that’s been given and the concern and care that’s been shown for this school. We hope we can get a candidate who’s as loving and kind as Mr. Holland and can also make the academic improvements that are needed. In theory, we want everything Mr. Holland offers and even more on top of that.”
Instituting school-wide academic standards and behavioral management systems will be important for the next principal at Westwood, said Weber.
Teachers who advocated for keeping Holland have cited his ability to fill multiple roles when needed, including guidance counselor, gym teacher, and cafeteria worker.
Other comments have painted a picture of past Westwood principals having a rigid relationship with staff and students.
“We want a positive person in this role but not someone who will make a stipulation that teachers can do whatever they want,” Weber said. “We have no overarching, school-wide behavioral management system, and there needs to be. It can’t be where every teacher is setting their own rules and own academic goals. That has to be done collaboratively with the principal. Right now, teachers are doing all of that independently. Hopefully, they’re using the ODE curriculum and grade-level targets, but right now, there’s no academic goals or targets hung up in the school. It’s not a common discussion or one the students have been engaged in.”
Interviews with principal candidates are expected to continue through the first half of July.
Parent Mollie Diedrick has been a leading voice in the fight to keep Holland at Westwood and said she may contact the Ohio State Board of Education regarding the matter.
“I just feel really defeated,” she said. “I am heartbroken. I’m really disappointed in the board because they didn’t even formally acknowledge the petition that we gave to them. There was no mention of it on the agenda or in the meeting. They came out from executive session and moved to adjourn the meeting without even addressing any of it. There were about 30 of us still there and we waited almost two hours.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.