BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
and JAMES FARRELL
Following a yearlong fight to remove its interim-acting principal, Rosemarie Jahoda, Townsend Harris High School students and faculty celebrated last week after school leaders announced that Jahoda would not be offered a permanent position at the school.
The city’s Department of Education and the school’s leadership team took part in a 30-minute, private sit down last Thursday and then announced that Brian Condon, the current principal at the Bronx’s School for Tourism and Hospitality, would be the permanent principal for Townsend Harris. A room filled with approximately 30 students let out a roar following the announcement by PTA co-president Susan Karlic.
“I am excited to join the Townsend Harris community and meet with students, staff and families,” Condon said. “While it is bittersweet to be leaving Tourism and Hospitality, this is an exciting new chapter and I’m looking forward to the shared work ahead of us at Townsend Harris.”
Elaine Lindsey, Townsend Harris’ superintendent, said that Condon is an experienced and talented educator.
“I look forward to the work he’ll do at Townsend Harris and thank Rosemarie Jahoda for her leadership as interim acting principal,” she said.
Karlic, who had been deeply involved in the fight to remove Jahoda, said that the school was “very happy with the decision” and excited to work with Condon on healing the community after months of disputes.
Condon, who will begin work at Townsend Harris on May 1, is no rookie to Queens—in 2002, he worked as an English teacher and dean at Queens Village’s Martin Van Buren High School.
Max Kurant, freshman-sophomore president at Townsend Harris, said that he has been excited about Condon ever since the school newspaper, The Classic, interviewed him immediately after his job interview.
“He seems very open, he seems like a person who can learn the way that our school, Townsend Harris, works,” Kurant said.
“He seems very willing to learn our culture, which was the problem that we had with Miss Jahoda— she wasn’t willing to learn how our school operated.”
Franco Scardino, a social studies teacher and United Federation of Teachers representative at Townsend Harris, was “very thrilled” with the principal selection process’ outcome and hoped that the school could focus on healing.
However, Scardino still has concerns about the C-30 principal selection process, which he has criticized since protests began.
Under the current process, the superintendent selects a candidate pool of five to 10 individuals from a broader group of applicants. That pool is interviewed by a “Level I committee” consisting of parents and faculty that issues a recommendation to the superintendent, who makes the final appointment.
Scardino, who was a member of the Townsend Harris Level 1 committee, said that the process is “layered with secrecy” as committee members sign confidentiality agreements that prevent them from communicating concerns with the rest of the school community. Additionally, only the superintendent sees the full applicant list, which can lead to questions regarding candidates who have been rejected.
For instance, a total of 38 candidates for Townsend Harris applied, but only four were selected for Level I interviews. The school community began to doubt that the best applicants had been selected, especially after news spread via a New York Post report that one of them, Flushing High School Principal Tyee Chin, was being investigated for academic misconduct.
“I have confidence in the system because the system worked,” Scardino said. “But is it the best way to make the system work?
I don’t think so.”
Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Flushing), who has supported Townsend Harris throughout the process as an alumna, praised the school community.
“Over the last couple of months, the community came together to have their voices heard and showed that through continued activism, positive change can happen,” she said.