Townsend Harris, Elite Queens High School, Gets Welcome Change at the Top


Faculty members and students at Townsend Harris High School on Thursday after Brian Condon was named the permanent principal.

Edu Bayer for The New York Times

A teacher’s fist shot up in the air, students whooped and cheered, and parents embraced. The cause of celebration on Thursday at Townsend Harris High School in Queens was not a victory on a sports field, but word that an interim acting principal who was widely disliked would be leaving.

Some of those who were cheering knew little about the man who would succeed her, but that hardly seemed to matter.

“I figured at this point, anyone would be better,” said Erela Datuowei, a senior.

Since arriving at Townsend Harris in the fall, the interim principal, Rosemarie Jahoda, had been opposed by almost all factions. Teachers had accused her of harassment and rudeness. Students and parents had expressed concerns about changes to school programs. In December, students held a sit-in to protest her appointment, and the parent-teacher association passed a resolution that included a list of complaints about her. Elected officials in Queens had stated their opposition to her permanent appointment.

The school newspaper, The Classic, had learned that an announcement about a permanent principal was expected on Thursday. As a large crowd gathered in the school’s library, the superintendent who oversees the school, Elaine Lindsey, met privately in another room with members of the school leadership team.

Ms. Lindsey told the group that Brian Condon, 43, the principal of the School for Tourism and Hospitality in the Bronx, would be named the permanent principal of Townsend Harris as of May 1. Soon after, leadership team members emerged to share the news, prompting the cheers.

“So they won,” said Susan Karlic, a co-president of the parent-teacher association, referring to students and teachers. “To new beginnings.” She asked if anyone had questions.

“Will Ms. Jahoda stay in the building until May 1?” a staff member asked, clearly hoping the answer would be no.

Franco Scardino, a social studies teacher and the leader of the school’s union chapter, said of the outcome of the selection process, “For me it just proves that the system works.”

Townsend Harris has more than 1,100 students and a graduation rate of 100 percent. Mr. Condon’s current school, where he has been principal since 2013, has only 300 students, and a graduation rate of just 69 percent. Mr. Condon was previously an English teacher and a dean at Martin Van Buren High School in Queens.

Asked about the differences between Mr. Condon’s current school and Townsend Harris, Mr. Scardino said they did not concern him. “Townsend Harris is a well-oiled machine,” Mr. Scardino said. “I think Mr. Condon is a person who can come…

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