Education

Stoneman Douglas principal reassigned, under investigation, but will remain on campus

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Principal Ty Thompson is under investigation but will remain at the school while his duties are reassigned to other administrators, teachers learned in an impromptu meeting held at the school Thursday.

The Broward County school district confirmed that it has expanded its investigation of the circumstances leading up to the mass shooting at the school last year to include Thompson, however, spokeswoman Kathy Koch did not provide a reason in an initial statement.

Koch said Thompson will remain at the school to focus on recovery efforts and to provide oversight on the construction of the new building to replace the one where the shooting occurred. He will continue to participate in student activities and events, including prom, graduation and competitions. She said keeping Thompson on campus was in the best interest of the school community.

“Since the tragedy, Thompson has provided stability to the school and community, and has been considered by many to be instrumental in helping with healing and recovery,” she said in a statement.

Day-to-day duties, however, will be reassigned to co-principal Teresa Hall, who came to the school in March 2018 following the Valentine’s Day massacre that left 14 students and three staff members dead and another 17 injured. The district also announced that former Stoneman Douglas and West Broward High principal Dan Traeger will provide “additional oversight and support.”

Traeger, who Koch said currently provides leadership development for principals at the district level, does not have a valid educator license, according to the Florida Department of Education website. It expired in June 2018, the website shows.

The announcement, coming a day before the start of spring break for Broward schools, is the latest development in a string of turnover and change at Stoneman Douglas. Teachers staged a protest in November after three assistant principals and a security monitor were reassigned while under investigation.

The investigation of Thompson and the three assistant principals will be completed by the end of this school year, Koch said. A law firm from Miami was hired by the school district to conduct the investigation.

Lisa Maxwell, executive director of the Broward Principals’ and Assistants’ Association, said Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie told Thompson in December that there was “no reason to investigate him” and that he would not be reassigned. She did not know of the shift in Thompson’s administrative duties until informed by the Miami Herald.

Maxwell said Thompson received “cut and paste” sections of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission report from Runcie as an explanation for why he was under investigation. They say Thompson was responsible for not training or ensuring that the assistant principals were properly trained to conduct threat assessments, leaving the school gates open and unmanned and failing to have a code red procedure.

“The only thing I can come to is that the superintendent has wilted under political pressure and now decided over a year and a half later to put Ty under investigation when there’s no new information and there’s no new facts,” Maxwell said, adding that Runcie is “clearly making it up as he goes.”

She vowed to sue the district for violating the administrators’ due process rights.

“I’m sure next they’re going to go after teachers, the poor teachers who didn’t lock their door that day,” Maxwell said. “That’s coming.”

Teachers learned of the administrative shift at an on-campus meeting with Runcie and the district’s chief school performance and accountability officer, Valerie Wanza. According to two teachers, several teachers walked out before the meeting ended.

“The teachers are angry; everybody’s angry,” said history teacher Gregory Pittman.

Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina was among those killed, sat on the commission that issued the report cited as why Thompson was under investigation, according to Maxwell.

“My view is that the principal is going to have an opportunity to defend his actions or inaction,” he said. “I’m not surprised that they’re using someone else’s homework to investigate one of their own.”

Broward County School Board member Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter Alyssa was among the students killed in the shooting, said it was in the best interest to keep Thompson at the school during testing season.

“Personally, I would say it’s about time that he’s under formal investigation,” she said.

Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow was among those killed, also said an investigation into Thompson was overdue but that fault ultimately lies with Runcie.

“Broward County Public Schools doesn’t know the meaning of accountability,” he said. “They know the meaning of reassignment and it takes over a year to figure out the guy didn’t do his job.”

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