Tunica students protest principal's firing

Tunica students protest principal's firing
Published: Aug. 28, 2014 at 1:00 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 29, 2014 at 9:43 AM CDT
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(Photo Source: Chable Dotson, WMC Action News 5 viewer)
(Photo Source: Chable Dotson, WMC Action News 5 viewer)
(Photo Source: Chable Dotson, WMC Action News 5 viewer)
(Photo Source: Chable Dotson, WMC Action News 5 viewer)
(Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)
(Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)

(WMC) – More than 100 students are protesting the dismissal of their principal by walking out of school.

Students walked from Rosa Fort High School in Tunica to the Tunica County Schools building early Thursday morning before class.

WMC Action News 5 confirmed that Derrick Dace is no longer the principal at the school.

Dace was a longtime educator, leader, and coach in the Tunica area.

"We want our principal back, if we don't get our principal back we will not go to class," said school body president Damien Jackson.

People in the community are upset about his departure. Some students say they won't go back to school until Dace returns.

"We need him back, we want to know the reason for firing him," Diajah Lambert said. "Everybody loves Coach Dace. Coach Dace was a good man."

Superintendent Stephen Chandler could not go into specifics about Dace's dismissal, citing personnel reasons. He did say he felt the school hasn't met expectations, has not exceeded a 'D' rating, or improved the graduation rate to be above 60 percent.

Chandler said Rosa Fort High School has long tried to rebound from low academic performance, based on state results.

"Are you satisfied if your child goes from an F to a D in a four year period? If so, then you can answer that question for yourself, personally, I'm not," Chandler said.

Law enforcement from the county, town, and state were on hand at the demonstration to make sure students protested peacefully.

Other parents, like Carolyn Vardaman, kept their children at school. Vardaman stands behind Chandler's decision.

"People are just used to being set in their own ways but it's time for us to stop being set in our own ways and start progressing," Vardaman said.

Some students told WMC Action News 5 that the group started their protest in the high school gym and then walked about a mile to the central office building.

All of the students left by Thursday afternoon, but plan to return Friday morning. Students who miss too many days of school could face trouble with the law.

Protestors could also be disciplined if they violated any school rules when leaving campus.

Chandler said Dace has the option to appeal his dismissal. It's unclear if he will do so.

Copyright 2014 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.