'I have never dealt with a mother like this one'

Coach Melissa Prochilo's last game Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
Coach Melissa Prochilo's last game Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

The firing of Melissa Prochilo as Marjory Stoneman Douglas cheerleading coach has made "furious" many principals across Broward County, says Lisa Maxwell, who represents hundreds of public school administrators as executive director of the Broward Principals and Assistants Association. 

Not because they know Prochilo or have a dog in that particular fight, but because school board members meddled in personnel affairs at a school, something policy forbids from doing and something the statewide grand jury warned them against. 

"I think it's the ultimate micromanagement when you're choosing the cheerleading coach," said Maxwell, who has been monitoring the case for weeks and been in regular contact with Collado.

She said she also fears that Douglas Principal Washington Collado, who has stuck by the coach through numerous allegations from a handful of moms, will be targeted for dismissal next. 

"This boils down to a small handful of very vocal parents who didn't like the coach and wanted her replaced and thought they they could use politics to get that done," she said. "And they did."

As reported in the last post a revolt against Prochilo starting with a few moms began in earnest around the time parent Joann Gavin had a blow-up after a cheerleading competition at Taravella High School on January 3, 2012. Her daughter, a "flyer" who does those flips in the air, had fallen at the practice the night before. Prochilo's assistant coach, Amber Armellino, caught her but the girl was shaken to the point she was crying. She went on to finish the practice and Gavin cleared her to compete the following night.

Then came the competition, where the Douglas team did very poorly coming in last place. Several witnesses have said that when the competition was over Gavin began yelling at Armellino, who is now head coach at Coral Glades High School where she won a state championship earlier this year.

When I reached her on the phone Monday, Gavin refused to comment. She also didn't return messages left at her home last week. One thing to make clear: Every indication is that she and every other mother involved in this cheerleading fiasco were doing what they believed to be the right thing for their daughters. As for School Board Member Katie Leach, who has crusaded for the anti-Prochilo faction, I have no doubt that she is doing what she believes is right for the district. Agree or disagree, a degree of respect is due to all parties involved on both sides. 

Armellino wrote the following e-mail about the Gavin eruption the very next day on January 4:

After hearing how upset Joanne [sic] was about practice on Monday 1/2/12 and hearing her speak ill about the program and coaches last night at the competition as I was standing right next to her saying "THIS IS BULLSHIT -- THIS IS A WASTE OF TIME. THEY SUCK. YOU GUYS ARE GETTING WORSE", I politely approached her and asked her if I could talk to her for a second. She then said in a demeaning tone, YES WE NEED TO TALK I AM NOT HAPPY.

From there, I turned around so I wasn't near the girls and I said, listen I am sorry about upsetting you and M the other night, I was standing there when she fell, I caught her fall, and I asked her if she was okay. She was crying, but she shook her head yes. From there [Joann Gavin] then said she wasn't okay (and she started to point in my face)- she told me she is "tired of hearing this is cheerleading and girls get hurt" she is tired of hearing "shake it off you're okay" she is tired of hearing "come on M get up" "MY DAUGHTER WAS SERIOUSLY HURT". From there I said, well she told me she was okay, she speaks for herself and I can truly say I did not think she was hurt because she hit her stunt after and was laughing. I told her I am going to be like ANY OTHER COACH for any other sport and encourage these girls to keep going and push them to be better cheerleaders and that is when she said (coming at me even more at this point) "you're not pushing them to be better you are making them worse. You don't know what you're doing, you should quit. This team has gotten 3, 3, 4, and 7. This is what we are paying for parents! This is what you're wasting your money on." Then on the top of her lungs she screamed she doesn't care about your girls! She needs to quit!" so from there I calmly said if you do not like the way I am coaching your daughter then quit -- pull her off the team, I am not quitting. I told her your daughter has gotten better since I started working with this program -- M, have you not gotten better? And [Gavin] SCREAMED and jumped in front of M and said DO NOT TALK TO HER. I told her and the surrounding parents since now there was a mob of them, that I cannot make this team perform, I can only teach them the fundamentals for the routine. It is not my fault they are placing the way they are, you do not know me, you do not know my background, and you do not know my coaching history, do not insult me that way. I told her that she needed to come to a practice to see how I coach, then tell me I do not know what I am doing and I do not care about these girls. Then as she kept continually putting her hands in my face hovering over me, coming AT ME, literally -- I stepped away and stopped talking to her as she continued to scream at me and about me and come at me. Parents had to actually hold her back on each side of her arms and force her out the door of the gym.

I just want you to know I have coached Coral Glades for 6 years, this is my 7th year. The school staff over there supports me and loves me and I wouldn't want it any other way with any school. I can tell you that in the last 10 years I have never dealt with a mother like this one. Coral Glades has over 10 National Titles, 5 Grand Champion Titles, 4 District Titles, 2 Regional Titles, and always win top 4 for States -- and I stand behind all of that. Last year we lost states by .07. I cheered competitively for 12 years, I am a 2x World Champion. I choreographed so many competitive routines since I was 15 and all of them have won a title. I am only telling you this because I know what I am doing, I know what it takes to train a winning team. I came onto Douglas to help this schools cheerleading program and from what I have heard from girls and parents is that the program is the best they have ever been and they all love Melissa and I coaching them. Any time these girls get hurt, I always ask them if they are ok. I would never jeopardize a kid's health. Whenever they are truly hurt or not feeling well, I always let them sit down. But when they tell me they are ok, I am going to make them get up and do it again. I want nothing but the best for this program but dealing with a mother like that is not worth it. I do not want her anywhere near me for the rest of the season and I would appreciate it if you can make that happen. All I tried to do with good intentions was apologize to her, be the bigger person, be the respectful coach, let her know I do care and I am sorry. Even after saying all of that- making it clear my apology was the first thing to come out of my mouth, she still flipped out on me and came at me. I am sorry for any commotion I have caused but I do not deserve to be attacked by a parent, for any reason.