Parents, community leaders plan rally for removed Lacoochee principal
The news of Karen Marler's sudden removal from Lacoochee Elementary School last week has hit many parents and community members hard.
"She knows all of the children at the school by name. She doesn't just speak it, but she shows it by action how much she cares about these kids," said Esperanza Conn, a mom who volunteers at the school. "She understands the needs of the people who are from the Hispanic community. And she is so involved with the community itself."
"I've never been so devastated in my life," said Herb Green, president of the Greater Trilby Community Association. "In my life I have never run into a principal who is more caring for her students and the community."
About a dozen backers gathered Monday morning at the Trilby United Methodist Church to hash out how they can support Marler -- the sooner the better, as a decision on her fate could arrive as early as Tuesday. District officials have spent several days at the school interviewing staff and parents about Marler and the school environment amid unspecified complaints raised by "a variety of people."
In just two days, nearly 200 people signed a petition urging Marler's return to the school. The group planned to blitz superintendent Heather Fiorentino and the School Board with letters praising their principal of six years. And they intend to round up as many people as possible to wave signs outside the school letting the public know exactly how much Marler means to them.
"There are parents who don't even know this is happening," said Judy Christian, who has children at the school. She said she contacted Marler's family to make sure they would favor activism for her position. "They said Karen has nothing to hide."
The group acknowledged that things might not work out the way they hope. They didn't even know all the accusations that Marler faces, as those details have not been released during the district's review. That can't drive people away from the school, though, volunteer Judy Geiger stressed.
"Even if it turns out bad, we need to continue what we're doing with the school," Geiger said. "Karen would want that."
Lacoochee Elementary serves one of Pasco County's poorest communities. During Marler's tenure, the school has earned mostly A's and B's in state grading, although it dropped to a C last year. The school also has been a focal point in an effort to improve the Lacoochee-Trilby area, with Marler, who grew up there, playing a leading role.