BY BUDDY NEVINS
A small group of parents demonstrated last week in front of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, demanding that Principal Washington Collado be allowed to stay in the school.
Some of these same parents might be complaining to the School Board in person this week about Collado’s dismissal.
Although Collado is one of roughly a dozen principals rumored to be fired, he is the one being talked about the most.
I wonder if Collado’s protesting supporters know this:
Collado had been misleading about the cheerleading controversy at Stoneman Doulgas.
He didn’t tell the truth when he barred parent Joann Gavin from the school last year as part of the hubbub over cheerleading.
He didn’t tell the truth when he wrote a letter justifying the ban. The letter was given to Gavin and to his supervisor, North Area Director David Hall.
Collado wrote that an “investigation conducted by the Broward County School Board Special Investigative Union” found Gavin had “consistently exhibited inappropriate outbursts, engaged in disparagement and harassment of coaches and staff and, in the midst of an argument, aggressively put your hands on one of our trainers…”
Gavin was never investigated!
The statement that she was investigated was used by Collado to explain prohibiting Gavin from the school campus.
By keeping her out of the school, Collado eliminated a vocal critic of Stoneman Douglas’ cheerleading program and its coach at the time, Melissa Prochilo.
Questions about improprieties involving the cheerleading program had ignited a bitter feud between Prochilo supporters and Prochilo critics like Gavin.
Porchilo supporters complained to Collado about Gavin. They alleged in e-mails all kinds of misconduct.
Wading into the dispute, Collado took sides against Gavin.
In February, 2012Collado told Gavin in writing she was no longer allowed to enter the campus.
Gavin was not permitted to give her side of the story. She sued alleging that Collado and the School Boardviolated her Constitutional guarantees to due process by not allowing her any opportunity to defend herself or to appeal the ban.
As part of the lawsuit, Gavin’s pro-bono attorney Chris Fertig questioned Guillermo Flores. He is the school police detective who was supposedlyassigned to look into the e-mailed allegations against Gavin from the other cheerleading mom’s.
He was asked repeatedly in a sworn deposition if he had investigated Gavin.
“This was not an official investigation or a case number would have been assigned, a supervisor would have signed off on it and it would have been a full-blown investigation,” Flores testified. This was not an official, full blown investigation, this was a preliminary, unofficial investigation so the principal could do his investigation.”
Page 23, Lines 14 to Page 24, Line 9
Q: Who deems the truth (of the email’s containing allegations against Gavin)?
A: That their—their allegations. In other words, saying-. Let me.
Q: Take your time because this is important.
A: My job—they –they sent me e-mails. My job was to verify what they said in their e-mails.
Q: To verify the content of the e-mails or just to verify that the person who wrote the e-mails actually wrote it?
A. Pretty much; yes, sir.
Q: Which one?
A: Oh, the author of that e-mail is the one who wrote that e-mail and this is what their allegation is.
Q. Okay, Did you investigate the substance of what these people were saying in their e-mails?
A: My investigation went as far as speaking to the authors of the e-mails and passing that information on to the principals.
The only investigation was to see if the mothers actually wrote the e-mails. There was no investigation into the allegations contained in the e-mails.
Flores was asked about Collado’s letter justifying Gavin’s ban:
Page 46, Line 2-17
Q: On that February 28 letter, the principal wrote:
‘Furthermore, according to the investigation conducted by the Broward County School Board Special Investigative Union” found she had “consistently exhibited inappropriate outbursts.’ You go on – or he goes on, the principal.
Was there an investigation conducted by the Broward County School Board Special Investigative Unit?
A: Not an official investigation.
Q: An official investigation would have involved personally interviewing witnesses, would it?
Page 60; Lines 14-19
Q: Did you ever ask Ms. Gavin before this letter was issued to have her side told?
Q: Did you ever investigate the accuracy or truth of those statements that were made against her?
Contrary to the principal’s letter, there was no SIU investigation of Gavin.
So there was no reason to prohibit her from campus.
You can decide whether someone should be a principal who can ban someone from a publicly owned campus…just because he doesn’t like what she was saying.