Broward News

Parents Unhappy With "Flawed Principal Selection" at Bethune Elementary

Bethune Elementary School of the Arts is about to name a new principal approved by a selection committee. But a growing number of parents and faculty say they're unhappy about this.

The current principal, Michelle L. Alvarez, who was chosen as an interim principal at the beginning of the school year, is popular among students, parents, and teachers.

But the selection committee announced that it vetted a new candidate and was set to recommend Wanda E. Haynes as the school's new principal. That is, until parents rallied to express their displeasure.

Parents, and at least one substitute teacher New Times spoke with, say Alvarez has been exceptional in her duties and that the selection committee has not been transparent in the way it's gone about choosing Haynes.

"Pretty much all of the parents I've spoken to say that they believe Ms. Alvarez is the best candidate for this job," a substitute teacher at Bethune, who chose to remain anonymous, told New Times. "The rally was about getting the School Board to retract their recommendation and appoint Ms. Alvarez as principal."

The rally, which went down Monday afternoon outside of the school, located at 2400 Meade St. in Hollywood, drew a small but boisterous crowd of parents and students who came armed with picket signs to express their desire to see Alvarez get the job full-time.

"I like the work Ms. Alvarez has been doing with the school and my daughter," Margarita Ramos, a parent whose 10-year-old daughter attends the school, told New Times. "She works with the kids and with the parents. My daughter has improved while Ms. Alvarez has been principal, and you can see that she really cares for the students."

In response, the School Board called an urgent meeting at Bethune Elementary with the chief school performance and accountability officer, Dr. Desmond Blackburn, who spoke with parents and faculty about the principal selection process. More than 40 people, mostly teachers and staff, were in attendance, according to the substitute teacher.

"The principal selection process in our schools is flawed," the teacher says. "The School Board just hasn't been accommodating to listening to parents or giving us information on how they went about selecting the new principal."

The School Board has since stalled in recommending its new choice, with Superintendent Robert Runcie announcing at a board meeting that he would review Haynes' qualifications and then make a decision within the next 30 to 45 days.

Parents have urged Runcie to use his power as superintendent to appoint Alvarez as the permanent principal for Bethune Elementary.

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