Plymouth County

‘Extremely dismayed’: Brockton schools facing $14M shortfall as superintendent goes on medical leave

BROCKTON, Mass. — Brockton Public Schools is short $14 million this school year and the district’s superintendent has taken a medical leave, Mayor Robert Sullivan announced Thursday night during a four-hour executive session, leaving the community outraged.

Sullivan and school committee members left the meeting late in the evening and came out to talk with reporters, announcing that they discovered a $14 million budget shortfall for the 2023-2024 school year. Sullivan also said Superintendent Mike Thomas did not attend the emergency meeting because he is currently out on medical leave.

Thomas, a graduate of Brockton High School, oversaw the physical education department and worked his way up to become superintendent in 2019. The mayor, who serves as the chair of the Brockton School Committee, said he was dismayed but is committed to fixing the situation.

“As a mayor and a BPS alum and a parent in the BPS system I’m extremely dismayed. Collectively, we are all dismayed at the situation, and we are committed to ensuring that we will rectify the situation, appoint new leadership, and move forward,” Sullivan said.

Back in May, the school district eliminated 130 staff positions after facing an $18 million deficit. The district attributed some of the shortfall to dwindling enrollment due to the pandemic.

Sullivan didn’t take comments and he didn’t say how the deficit came to be, causing much speculation.

“There’s so much more that that money could be gone to and quite frankly if it’s coming out of the school’s budget, what’s missing?” Coach Bri Nichols said. “We’ve got teachers that got a bunch of pink slips this year.”

As for Thomas, it’s unknown how long he will be out for.

“We are committed to ensuring we will rectify the situation, appoint new leadership, and move forward with our strategy and our concise strategy to deliver the best schools for our teachers, our staff, our students, our parents, and of course our guardians,” Sullivan added.

Residents, however, were unimpressed with the explanation.

“We know for a fact that something is going on, and what we just heard does not let us know if our children will be safe to enter this building, if the funds that are allegedly missing, where they were misappropriated, who is a part of this alleged investigation,” Nichols said. “There needs to be some transparency here.”

Sullivan said the Brockton School Committee will host another emergency meeting on Friday at 3:30 p.m. at Brockton High School to discuss the next steps.

“We need answers,” Nichols said.

Keith Hayes, a parent with a child in Brockton Public Schools, said, How do you get somebody to come here? Somebody with a good enough resume with this overhanging?”

“This makes it seem as if the kids are not the first priority to the people responsible for making them their first priority here in these buildings,” said Nichols. “We got $14 million missing, this is coming out the week before kids start school. There’s no superintendent there’s no principal for the school. This just raises all kinds of concerns and we don’t want to alarm the community but how can we not be alarmed,” Coach Bri added.

The first day of school for all grades in the district is Wednesday, September 6.

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