NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Parents in New Rochelle plan to protest after learning a popular elementary school assistant principal is not being promoted to principal.

They say Trinity Elementary School Assistant Principal Michael Hilderbrand is the person they want to lead next school year. He’s bilingual and has 16 years teaching in the school district.

“Every morning, he’s welcoming the kids, so energetic, trying to push the kids to be morning person and have a great day,” said parent Mildred Sandoval.

“He’s boss,” another added.

“I’ve never seen my kids so excited to come to school,” parent Yessenia Gonzalez said. “My little one, her birthday was two days ago, and he sang to her as she got out of the truck. I mean, he’s amazing with them.”

Students agree.

“I wish he was the principal,” said 7-year-old Santiago Ochoa.

“He always says good things,” 6-year-old Kevin Barragan said.

“Makes sure we’re safe,” said Matthew Monzon.

“I like when he says, ‘adios muchachos,” Damen Lore added.

Last week, the community learned Hilderbrand, currently the assistant principal, is not going to make the grade for a promotion to principal. There’s something the superintendent sees in another candidate from outside the district – someone the administration refers to as an experienced principal.

“There’s no reason why someone new should have to come into his role and earn that when it’s already there for him,” the PTA president said. “My concern is that someone else is going to see all the great qualities that we already see in Mr. Hilderbrand, and he’s going to leave anyway.”

The Board of Education decides whether to appoint the superintendent’s recommendation. In a letter, the board said, if it votes on the outside candidate, “it will be because the recommendation was based on a rigorous process.”

Experts say it’s not uncommon to hire externally, especially if someone has prior experience as principal.

“The superintendent doesn’t have to give a reason. In fact, it’s usual that no reason is given,” said David Bloomfield, a professor of education law at CUNY graduate center. “They try to avoid litigation. And so, when the board appoints, there could be discussion but that’s confidential.”

Parents told CBS2’s Lisa Rozner that Hilderbrand does want the job and he appreciates their support.

In a statement sent Tuesday afternoon, the New Rochelle School District says the report Hilderbrand has received is “heartwarming.”

“Mr. Hilderbrand brings to his students, families, and staff a positive attitude and inviting climate and culture,” the statement continued. “We take the responsibility of hiring a school principal very seriously. There were multiple levels in this hiring process.”

The Board of Education is expected to vote on the new principal next month.


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