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Brian Condon, current principal of the School for Tourism and Hospitality in the Bronx, will be the new permanent principal of Townsend Harris High School. Following news of his appointment, he spoke to The Classic regarding his experience and future plans to increase communication with the school community.
Mr. Condon’s arrival comes after months of ongoing controversy involving former Interim Acting Principal Rosemarie Jahoda.
Mr. Condon expressed several ideas to help maintain a positive school environment. He emphasized having a clear “focus on building trust.” He said, “Building trust really comes down to is listening to others, being empathetic, understanding things from their perspective, and then respecting them.”
In the same light, Mr. Condon said it is his job to get to know the students rather than it being the other way around. On the topic of trust between students and why they should place their faith in him, Mr. Condon remarked, “they shouldn’t.” He said that since he is a new principal, the students don’t know him and wanted his “actions, behaviors, [and] the way [he] treat[s] people, [to] demonstrate [his] character.” He claimed that he wished “to contribute to the community…to facilitate learning in every single opportunity.”
A common complaint against Ms. Jahoda was in regards to visibility and communication. On this issue, Mr. Condon said students should expect to see him around the building often. He hopes to have two days a week when he will not be in office at all; he hopes to have one day as an office day to do paperwork and the other two days he will try to be “balanced.”
He added, “You’ll see me regularly…. I like holding doors for people and I love saying good morning and patting people on the back and just finding out how their weekend was and you know, just being a regular human being.”
Mr. Condon suggested having a regular podcast to foster communication between himself and the school community, facilitated by The Classic. The podcasts would “solicit some questions from the student body, faculty or the alumni” to address “current issues on what’s going on and what’s coming up in THHS.”
In regards to communication with The Classic, Mr. Condon mentioned having an ongoing conversation with the newspaper. He commented, “[The Classic is] an extremely trusted source of news to your school community and now outside of your school community, and that’s to be encouraged.”
When asked about the assistant principals of the school, who have faced several issues with Ms. Jahoda, Mr. Condon said APs should not be constantly tied up in meetings, and that “the APs are the heart of the school…If there’s no time for APs to interact with students and families, then you have to sit back and think about how you are using those APs and what duties they have.”
Regarding Mr. Condon, Assistant Principal of Organization Ellen Fee remarked, “I’m eager to move forward again after a difficult few months. Our team of assistant principals is ready and excited to work with someone that cares about our school.”
The Classic also asked about repairing relations with UFT Chapter Leader Franco Scardino, to which Mr. Condon said, “there’s a reason that you have a Chapter leader,” and he explained that he thinks one should not just “leverage,” but “build” a relationship with the chapter leader. Mr. Condon said he currently has good relations with his school representatives. He goes to the chapter leader to discuss concerns and have the chapter leader check in with teachers.
Mr. Scardino informed The Classic about his first impressions of Mr. Condon, saying, “Mr. Condon was the strongest of the candidates presented to the Level 1 Committee during the C-30 process. Hearing his responses to the committee’s questions and reading his first interview with The Classic, I feel he is a ray of light that is breaking through the stormy year we have endured all year. I look forward to working with him to restore the climate at THHS and build on the strengths of the school.”
Still on the topic of communication between school constituencies, Mr. Condon placed particular emphasis on getting to know the teachers. He said, “The people that have the most direct and frequent important contact with most important constituency group [referring to students] are the teachers. You cannot run a school in opposition and with some sort of disdain for your teachers.”
Previously, Mr. Condon worked as a dean of Martin Van Buren High School in 2002; he began there as an English teacher. Before arriving at THHS, he was working as the principal at the School for Tourism and Hospitality since 2013; the school graduated its first class last year.
Mr. Condon grew up in the Bronx and later moved to Brentwood, Long Island. He received an undergraduate degree from the University of Albany with a major in English and a minor in philosophy.
He explained his passion for teaching emerged following the attacks on 9/11. He heard “powerful” reportings of individuals who were near their death saying goodbye to their loved ones, and that this made him reflect on the impact he had in people’s lives. Mr. Condon said: “I asked myself this question:…. what if I died? I haven’t made the world better. I haven’t improved people’s lives…I [then] realized the thing I always wanted to do was to be a teacher but I had no experience as a teacher.”
Mr. Condon then interviewed at several schools before landing a job at Martin Van Buren High School in Queens Village. Recalling his first day, Mr. Condon said, “I walked into the classroom and I started talking and teaching.” He later explained that a colleague “showed [him] the ropes” by teaching him how to write an aim and aiding him with other structural components of teaching a lesson.
Following this, Mr. Condon partook in the Aspiring Principal Program in 2012, before becoming principal at the School for Tourism and Hospitality.
Mr. Condon said he meditates for a “minimum of 40 minutes a day” and has a group of students meditate with him in his current school. He discussed possibly implementing mindfulness meditation at THHS with a “group of students.”
Giving his first impression of Mr. Condon, Co-President of the Townsend Harris Alumni Association Craig Slutzkin said, “We’re excited for Mr. Condon to take the reigns. He has the absolute right experience for the job, and by his comments so far, seems to really understand the ethos of the school as well as the challenges it has faced this academic year. He has an impressive pedigree which certainly lends itself to leading a Humanities-focused school…Mr. Condon has a huge road ahead of him, but all indications show that he’s up to the task…I look forward to hearing his ideas, and hope that the Alumni Association can support him in his efforts.”