Susan Szachowicz was 16 years old in 1970, when she walked through the doors of the new Brockton High School for the first time, wearing a state championship track jacket and red Adidas Gazelles.
In December, following a four-decade run at the Forest Avenue school as a student, history teacher, and most recently as principal, Dr. Szach, as she is known, will walk out the doors for the last time as the school’s leader.
Then from January through June, the high school will be led Michael Thomas, the district’s executive director of operations and school administration, who was named interim principal last Wednesday.
In announcing her retirement, Szachowicz said various factors influenced the timing of her departure, most important that she doesn’t want to overshadow the Class of 2013’s joy in June.
“They deserve the celebration of graduation for themselves, and I don’t want that celebration to be diverted by talk of the principal’s retirement,’’ she said in an Oct. 22 letter to her colleagues.
Brockton High is also beginning the accreditation process, and it should be led and directed by a team that will follow the process through, she said.
“Leadership is about teamwork, and I have said often that I have been the most fortunate principal in the world because of the fabulous leadership team at Brockton High,’’ Szachowicz said in her letter.
Szachowicz has been lauded with leading a literacy initiative in recent years that moved the school from its status as one of the lowest-performing in the state to one of the highest. Her work helping low-income and non-English-speaking students to reach their goals landed the school on the front page of The New York Times.
“They say no one is irreplaceable, but I’m not sure in this case,’’ Mayor Linda Balzotti, who was a student at Brockton High when Szachowicz started teaching, said in an interview.
“She was a tremendous, tremendous leader of that school and she has brought it to incredible heights academically,” said Balzotti, who is also chairwoman of the School Committee. “She will be incredibly missed, but I’m sure, too, there will be other opportunities for her. Education and young people are her passion.”
In his statement naming Thomas as interim principal, school Superintendent Matthew Malone said: “The course for excellence has been set, and it is critical that we find the best person to lead the greatest high school in the universe.’’
As a 20-year veteran of the Brockton public schools, Thomas has the experience and knowledge to lead the high school during the search for a permanent principal, having served as a teacher, department head, assistant housemaster, and housemaster at the sprawling school, the superintendent said.
Thomas will not apply for the permanent position, Malone said.
“The School Committee, mayor, and I are committed to finding the best possible person to join the BHS team and carry the baton from Sue’s hand,’’ he said.
Szachowicz said the years have flown by, and she still walks into Brockton High every day excited and proud.
“Brockton High has given me so much in my life — my education, my career, so many of my friends, and so much happiness,’’ she said in her retirement letter.
She told her colleagues that she found great joy in watching them teach the city’s children. “Thank you for taking such good care of Brockton’s kids. I mean that from the heart as one of Brockton’s kids myself. It has been my honor to serve as your principal, every single day.”
Szachowicz said she still has her track jacket, though the red Gazelles disappeared long ago.
“But what has never disappeared for me is that same excitement, same pride, and same love I feel for this school,’’ she said. “I am a Brockton Boxer through and through . . . it’s just that now I’m an old Boxer, and it’s time to relax a bit.”