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Published on February 28, 2024
Brockton Superintendent Mike Thomas Placed on Leave Amid School Violence, Budget WoesSource: City of Brockton/Mike Thomas

Brockton Public Schools Superintendent Mike Thomas was shoved into the spotlight and onto paid leave, following an explosive school committee meeting yesterday night. Just as community members aired grievances over recent high school violence, Thomas, who had tendered his retirement amidst a glaring $14 million budget deficit, decided to walk it back, according to NBC Boston. He claimed his presence might have averted the chaos that unfolded at Brockton High. However, the committee was having none of it, swiftly voting to place him on paid administrative leave.

Just months back the district was reeling from an unexpected fiscal punch: a $14 million hole in their budget for 2023. Thomas, at the time, took medical leave but denied any financial mishandling. "A narrative that money is missing or embezzled is absolutely absurd, every dime can be accounted for, and every dime went toward students," Thomas told Boston 25 News. The school committee subsequently voted to bring in an independent firm for an audit and appointed Dr. James Cobbs as interim superintendent.

The financial tumult came on the heels of a tough decision made last May when the district terminated 130 staff positions due to an $18 million deficit, fueled in part by declining enrollments during the pandemic. But, as pockets of violence erupted at Brockton High, the focus shifted from the budget to student safety, putting even more pressure on the embattled superintendent, who had risen from the ranks of graduate and physical education head to the district's leader in 2019.

The Mayor of Brockton, Robert Sullivan, was also caught in the crossfire of the meeting, asserting his ignorance of the budget debacle. "I was not made aware of a Fiscal '23 deficit until the date of Aug. 8, and that's a fact," Sullivan was heard shouting, according to NBC Boston. He was also firmly against the suggestion of deploying the National Guard to manage high school rowdiness, an idea floated by some committee members.

Discussions about security measures revealed dated strategies at the school. Brockton Police Chief Brenda Perez pointed out that the district's security plan hadn't been updated in ten years. Teachers voiced concerns for their safety, as NBC Boston reported, with math teacher Julie Fairfield expressing, "This is the first year I've ever thought that I could be hurt." The community is left waiting as the district grapples with financial scrutiny, leadership instability, and the urgent need to ensure a safe learning environment.