By Buddy Nevins, BrowardBulldog.org
Three years before cheerleading coach Melissa Prochilo was fired for ignoring bullying in her program at a Parkland high school, faculty members and parents at a nearby Coral Springs high school where she used to work leveled the same complaint against her.
And just like at Parkland’s Stoneman Douglas High School, the principal and his staff at Coral Glades High were accused of doing nothing.
Coral Glades Principal Michael Ramirez “overlooked all of the complaints” against Prochilo in 2009, according to an October 2 letter sent to Broward School Board members by one of Prochilo’s former co-workers and obtained by Browardbulldog.org.
The School Board fired Prochilo, the head cheerleading coach at Stoneman Douglas, earlier this month. She continues to work at the school as a substitute teacher.
The author of the letter is Carmela Ferreira, a former cheerleading coach with Prochilo at Coral Glades. She stated that she wrote to support Prochilo’s firing “100 percent.”
Her story from 2009 is almost identical to what got Prochilo in hot water at Stoneman Douglas, where parents complained that school staff did nothing about their 2011 complaints.
Ferreira’s letter says that shortly after Prochilo arrived at Coral Glades “many parent complaints started to arise…the JV (junior varsity) coach at the time also had many complaints.” The allegations included “many valid complaints such as bullying being allowed at practice, varsity girls making fun of JV girls, girls quitting because of the constant bullying.”
“Rules were not being followed properly; girls had to run their own practice because she (Prochilo) was not showing up to them. I recall having to bench a Varsity girl because she was making fun of the entire JV team at practice in front of both teams. Melissa did not agree with the benching because she liked the girl and her mother,” the letter stated.
Ferreira’s letter was similar to one received by Browardbulldog.org earlier this year after it first reported about problems in the Stoneman Douglas cheerleading program. That e-mail, whose author did not want to be publicly named, stated:
“You may want to investigate when this coach Melissa Prochilo was at Coral Glades. The same accusations were presented to the principal Ramirez and the school board. It was all pushed under the rug. We had girls that were bullied so bad they quit the team…”
The email is bolstered by a second email sent by another Coral Glades staff member, who asked not to be named, and others to Principal Ramirez on Oct. 27, 2009 when the incidents at the school were occurring.
That e-mail contains 40 different complaints against Prochilo, compiled from parents and staff. They include:
· Prochilo “allowed a girl to stunt with glasses—then injury occurred.”
· “Shows favoritism—and at this level it causes nothing more than animosity amongst girls and bullying.”
· “Practice out of control – JV and Varsity fighting, parents complaining.”
· “Girls allowed to curse and disrupt practices.”
· “Other coach witness their practice and its just crazy…way out of control with everything (playing around, language, laziness, etc).”
Ferreira told the School Board that Principal Ramirez simply brushed off the complaints “because he really did not want to deal with it.”
Ramirez was later promoted and today serves as one of the School Board’s 11 directors of School Performance and Accountability.
Ramirez and Porchilo did not respond to requests for comment.
Porchilo was fired after a parade of tearful moms who complained to the School Board that their daughters were being bullied in cheerleading and that neither Prochilo nor the school administration did anything to stop it. The mothers also accused Porchilo’s program of widespread violations of School Board policies, including requiring parents to pay more than a thousand dollars to participate.
Porchilo had her supporters. Before the Board meeting, fliers were circulated in the community calling the coach “fair, knowledgeable and kindhearted.” And during the meeting, cheerleaders dressed in the Stoneman Douglas school colors of burgundy and black, chanted outside the meeting room, “L-O-V-E. We love Coach Melissa, can’t you see.”
“It’s sad what’s being presented about this coach,” Cindy Beach, former vice president of the cheerleading booster club, told The Miami Herald. “I’ve never seen her yell at a kid.”
The Board, however, decided to follow Superintendent Robert Runcie’s recommendation and not have Porchilo continue cheerleading at the school.
“It’s a travesty,” Prochilo told the Sun-Sentinel. “I love all these children. I’m really disappointed for the girls.”
Prochilo also had supporters at Coral Glades who fought back with her, according to former cheerleading coach Ferreria’s letter earlier this month to the Board.
“It got very ugly and I decided to resign as the stress was not worth the fight and I could no longer support a coach that refused to follow the rules that had been in place for years,” Ferreria wrote.