Chris Cobain, athletic director at North Kingstown (R.I.) High School, where multiple coaches are currently on leave, submitted his resignation this week, signaling yet another sign of tumult inside the public school district that’s been grappling with scandal for nearly a year.
As reported by CBS affiliate WPRI in Providence, interim superintendent Michael Waterman confirmed Wednesday Cobain had submitted his resignation earlier in the week. The athletic director was hired in August 2020, and the North Kingstown School Committee voted to extend his contract earlier this year. He will now leave the position on Oct. 22, according to Waterman.
“On Monday I received the resignation of our athletic director, Chris Cobain,” Waterman said in a statement. “Chris is leaving voluntarily to pursue other professional endeavors. I wish Chris all the best.”
Cobain’s departure comes at the same time multiple coaches are on leave pending internal investigation. The school district and broader North Kingstown community has been grappling with controversy ever since WPRI first reported nearly a year ago that former boys' basketball coach Aaron Thomas conducted inappropriate naked fat tests on underage student-athletes over multiple decades.
Thomas, who has denied ever breaking the law, has since been charged with second-degree child molestation and second-degree sexual assault. He pleaded not guilty to the charges in August, WPRI reported.
Over the past year since Thomas’s naked fat tests became public, the school placed two more coaches and an administrator on leave pending internal investigations over separate allegations. The internal investigations into the two coaches remain ongoing, while the administrator has been reinstated with an apology from the school district.
“The allegation in this complaint was found to be unsubstantiated after an independent investigation,” Waterman said in a statement in August, as reported by WPRI. “We are sorry for the process that this employee was subject to, but together with our School Committee, we are committed to ensuring that any and all allegations made in our District are reviewed and investigated. The safety of every child attending North Kingstown Public Schools is our top priority.”
The fallout from the Thomas scandal, however, has extended far beyond the athletic department. Waterman has been filling in as the district’s top administrator since last winter when former Superintendent Phil Auger resigned at the same time a report was released showing he and others failed to intervene appropriately when notified about Thomas’s behavior over the years.
Assistant superintendent Denise Manceri, who likewise was implicated for failing to take action, also resigned shortly thereafter. Additionally, school committee member Jake Mather resigned from his post earlier this year. Two more school committee members, including chairman Greg Blasbalg, decided against running for re-election.
WPRI's investigative report spurred state attorney general Peter Neronha’s office to launch a criminal probe, resulting in the charges against Thomas. Rhode Island U.S. District Attorney Zachary Cunha’s office has been conducting a separate civil rights investigation into whether the North Kingstown school district responded appropriately to allegations of inappropriate behavior over the years. That probe remains ongoing.