After a last minute meeting of teachers at the end of the school day, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s Principal Ty Thompson stepped down from his position. This departure will be effective as of June 6, 2019, the last official day of the 2018-2019 school year. Thompson’s announcement comes two months after he was removed from his active duties as principal due to the pending investigation regarding the events of Feb. 14, 2018.
Before becoming MSD’s principal, Thompson traveled all throughout Florida for his education and his career. He graduated from another one of Broward County Public Schools, Plantation High School. From there he went on to attend Florida State University in Tallahassee. Once earning his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a Master’s degree in Social Sciences as well as Education, Thompson returned to Broward County, this time as an educator.
“I loved high school so much that I kind of wanted to come back and be in high school again,” Thompson said.
Back at his alma mater of PHS, Thompson taught government and economics, as well as advised student government. He was also the adviser for leadership and coached golf and flag football.
The next leap in his educational path was to be named assistant principal at J.P. Taravella High School. He remained in that position for eight years. Thompson was then transferred to MSD as an assistant principal during the 2009-2010 school year, and for the next four years he would thrive at MSD, becoming the principal during the 2012-2013 school year.
“I had such a great experience at my high school that I wanted to come back and give back,” Thompson said. “When I was at Taravella, I did all the things that I wanted to kind of spread out [at MSD] as principal. I wanted to come back and do what I grew up with.”
Since the shooting on Feb. 14, 2018, the students and staff of MSD have been faced with many challenges and changes. Throughout all of these additions, Thompson has remained the face of the school, wanting to be there for the MSD family.
“Basically it boils down to the fact that the day-to-day things that are going on here have just kind of caught up to me,” Thompson said. “I was worried about everyone, which I should be as the principal; worried about my own students and my staff and everything. Over the 16 months it’s been now, I’ve really kind of neglected my family and my health.”
Despite all that has occurred at MSD in the past 15 months, not all of Thompson’s years have been filled with unpleasant memories.
“There’s been a lot of great memories here,” Thompson said. “When I came in as the principal, the big thing I wanted to do was to help with the school spirit. I think that over the years I was here I was able to do that, with the additions of pep rallies and different activities.”
While being a principal allows for Thompson to be able to teach students, as well as the staff, the job also comes with it’s own lessons. Not only did he have to learn the layout of the school and how the existing staff worked together, but he was also tasked with making the school a better environment for his students.
“This school is unbelievable; the kids are unbelievable. There is lots of great potential here and hopefully we were able to bring out some of that potential,” Thompson said. “The staff here is also an unbelievable staff. I’ve worked at three schools and this staff definitely rises above any staff I’ve ever worked with.”
Over the past ten years that Thompson has worked at MSD, he has been able to build relationships with many of the teachers and staff members, earning their respect and confidence.
“He allowed for an enormous amount of academic freedom. He trusted us and I think that is an enormous quality in a principal when they can trust their employees to do what’s right. And I think along the way, we did,” television production teacher Eric Garner said.
Since arriving at MSD in 2009, Thompson has earned the trust of the student body and has been deemed a supportive principal, attending school functions ranging from sports events to award ceremonies. The student body has even given him his own nickname, Ty the Tank.
“I see Thompson as a great person in general,” sophomore George Alvord said. “He had always been a great supporter to every student at MSD. He is one of the kindest people at our schools.”
When he was removed from his duties back in March, students and teachers alike took comfort in that fact that he would still be seen around campus. With this new turn of events, however, it means that he will no longer be in attendance every day at MSD.
“He’s a super nice and chill guy,” senior Michael Vega said. “I’ll really miss hearing him say ‘We are MSD Strong’ every morning and just how approachable he was.”
It was announced that Michelle Kefford, the current principal of Charles W. Flanagan High School, would start her role as principal of MSD. On May 17, Kefford was present on the MSD campus in order to get a feel for how a school day is actually run under the guiding hand of Thompson.
“[Kefford] can’t be here everyday because she still has to close up over at Flanagan,” Thompson said. “We’ll really be putting a lot of time in over the summer, but I wanted her to see you guys and be here at least a day or two between now and the end of the year.”
However, Kefford will not be the only new administrative face at MSD next school year. In addition to Thompson stepping down from his position, several other members of the staff have announced their planned departure as well. Guidance Director Terrence Sullivan and Office Manager Teresa Basilone have revealed their plans to leave MSD next year.
When the investigation into the three administrators, Denise Reed, Winfred Porter and Jeff Morford, and security specialist, Kelvin Greenleaf, concludes, they will not be returning to MSD. Instead, assistant principals, Daniel Most, Daniel Lechtman and Yvette Figueroa will be staying as administrative staff joined by three new assistant principals to be named before next school year.
When Thompson was originally removed from his position as principal, it raised concerns about what changes would be implemented at MSD. Now, those feelings of uneasiness and worry have returned to the minds of teachers.
“With new principals, they set their expectations and we have an expectation about a principal, and it’s about trying to align everything,” Garner said. “To give a really bad analogy, we are all switching boats. This boat has had a lot of rough waters, so we’re jumping onto this new boat where she will be the captain, and how that all works out is going to be very interesting.”
What the future of MSD looks like is not totally certain, but it is clear that the 2019-2020 school year will come with it’s own set of challenges and changes.
This story was originally published in the May 2019 Eagle Eye print edition.