Protest planned for ousted Hudson High principal

Supporters want David LaRoche to be reinstated to the post he held for 12 years.
Pasco County schools superintendent Kurt Browning faces an election challenge from principal David LaRoche in August 2020.
Pasco County schools superintendent Kurt Browning faces an election challenge from principal David LaRoche in August 2020. [ Courtesy of Kurt Browning, David LaRoche ]
Published Jun. 10, 2020

The Pasco County School Board could face a fiery crowd when it returns to in-person meetings June 16 after nearly two months away.

A group using the social media tag #JusticeForDrLaRoche plans to rally outside the session and then migrate inside to deliver the message that it wants David LaRoche to remain principal of Hudson High School.

LaRoche, Hudson’s principal for 12 years, learned a week ago that superintendent Kurt Browning intended to demote him to an assistant principal position and transfer him to Mitchell High School. The announcement came just days before LaRoche was expected to formally file papers to challenge Browning for the superintendent’s job in the August 18 primary election.

The rally organizers called the demotion “unethical, unjust and unfounded.” They said the board needs to hear from the community that such actions will not be tolerated, and that change must occur.

Related: Pasco superintendent demotes challenger in upcoming election

School Board members generally have little say in who gets administrative appointments, with the ability to deny a recommendation solely for “cause.” The superintendent really holds the power in deciding which principals, department directors and others will get annual contracts for those posts.

But the board does vote on the list, because it’s responsible for the associated budget. And that vote is scheduled for the June 16 meeting, which begins at 4 p.m. with a workshop and 6 p.m. for the action agenda.

In a flyer circulating around parts of the county, supporters are urging residents to show up before the workshop to make some noise along U.S. 41 outside the board room. Then they intend to move inside to speak.

“We need the board to hear us before they vote on final approval for the appointments,” the flyer reads.

Access to the board will be limited by social distancing requirements.

The board plans to limit its main meeting room to 50 people, including board members and key staff. It will have an overflow room, also limited to 50 people, where others can wait for the opportunity to speak.

The district asks all in attendance to follow social distancing guidelines, and will set up seating appropriately. It does not intend to mandate masks.

Unlike the most recent meetings, which were conducted telephonically, the session will not be aired live on the district website. It will be recorded and posted at a later date.

Residents who don’t want to attend in person may send comments to the board via email.

The board agreed to hold the meeting in person because Gov. Ron DeSantis moved the state to Phase 2 of reopening, which relaxed the social distancing rules that limited gatherings to 10 or fewer people. Some board members said they preferred to gather in person, because it’s easier to discuss critical issues that way as opposed to on a conference call.