Students, Teachers at Stoneman Douglas Protest Removal of Assistant Principals
Fed up with what they view as another blow to a suffering school community, about 60 teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High protested the sudden reassignment of three assistant principals and the campus security specialist.
Teachers donning their signature maroon #MSDSTRONG shirts lined up in front of the school marquee early Tuesday morning. Some brought handwritten posters reading, “Respect teachers’ agency,” and “Who is this helping?” and began chants with “Bring them back!”
They received notice at an impromptu meeting Monday afternoon that assistant principals Jeff Morford, Winfred Porter and Denise Reed and school security specialist Kelvin Greenleaf will be reassigned to district sites following the findings of a state panel created to investigate the school shooting that left 17 dead and 17 injured on Valentine’s Day. The district did not provide any further information.
“If these people were such a problem, why didn’t they pull them out at the beginning of the school year?” asked American history teacher Gregory Pittman.
Experts at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission hearing two weeks ago testified that Greenleaf and Morford were said to have entered the security camera room approximately 7 minutes and 15 seconds after the first shot was fired. They relayed what they saw on video for the next 30 minutes, and at one point mentioned it was a delayed feed to Porter, who was in charge of security, and former school resource officer Scot Peterson, who later resigned.
But no one told police the feed was delayed. The confusion led to law enforcement officers searching for Cruz when he had, in fact, already fled the campus.
(Reed was not mentioned in that presentation.)
English teacher Debbie Jacobson held up a yellow flier Tuesday morning that read, “I was hired by Denise Reed and Winfred Porter.”
“Supposedly we’re safer now. Supposedly,” she said. Next to her, Debbie Wanamaker, who worked in student services under Porter and is the mother of a daughter who was in the classroom first shot Feb. 14, chimed in.
“How are removing the staff members making us safer?” Wanamaker said. “It’s beyond a gut punch, what they’re doing.”
Some teachers saw the district’s decision as removing their support system. Superintendent Robert Runcie, they said, has never visited the school to meet with staff following the tragedy.
“When I’m having a bad day where I don’t know where to go, I go to Ms. Reed. I go to Mr. Porter,” said ninth grade English teacher Felicia Burgin. “They’re not here anymore. Where do I go? We need someone to go to when I’m having a moment because we’re humans. We’re not just teachers.”
Spencer Blum, a 17-year-old senior, came outside to support a few of his teachers in the protest. He pointed to the pin on his school lanyard: “We call BS.”
“The four people that were mentioned ... they are generally well liked throughout the school, faculty and parents,” Blum said. “With this being so sudden, it makes the county seem like they’re pointing fingers and that heads need to roll.”
And if anyone’s head should roll, he said, “Runcie needs to go.”
Denise Engle, a retired nurse, came out to the protest to support Reed, one of her close friends. She said her friend was baffled by the district’s decision.
“They have to point the finger, the School Board, and they need to find a fall guy,” said Engle, 63, of Parkland. “There is not anyone I know in education more dedicated than Denise Reed.”
As teachers filed back into the school for the day, Principal Ty Thompson hugged each one at the door.
Some teachers said students might stage a walk out later in the day.