Girard at Large has learned that former Manchester Superintendent Dr. Thomas J. Brennan, Jr passed away this morning.
Brennan, who served about five years as superintendent of the state’s largest school district, was diagnosed with esophageal cancer within weeks of his June 30. 2103 retirement. By the time the cancer was discovered, it has metastasized through his body’s muscles, something that doctors at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston said they’d not seen before. Arrangements have not yet been announced.
Brennan anchored the weekly Girard at Large education segment “Is Our Children Learning?” segment beginning on August 15, 2013 until the end of the year when his health prevented him from being able to consistently appear. His insights were invaluable, provocative and often focused on an establishment that had become “about the adults, not the kids.”
Despite his grim prognosis, Brennan kept a positive, hopeful outlook, often referring to a book he wanted to write on how to put the education system back on track. He never got to write that book, but we suspect he laid the groundwork in the interviews he did on this show and we encourage you to listen to what he had to say.
His legacy will be felt in the Manchester School System for generations to come. The conversion of the Manchester School of Technology to a four year vocational technical high school is among his crowning achievements. Before he retired, he also laid the foundations for the STEAM Ahead NH program that is now being implemented at Manchester High School West and began the process of developing an alternative school that is still in the planning stages.
On a personal note, Tom Brennan was unflappable in the face of adversity and probably too polite, often not defending himself in the face of unfair criticism and unwarranted attacks. He was good to this show, never having refused an interview and never avoiding what were sometimes very tough questions on very difficult issues. More importantly, he was a personal friend who was always more interested in my family and well being than could ever be returned. He cared about people and gave his life to improving the lives of kids. He was a visionary and an idea man when it came to education and he knew what needed to be done and why.
Mayor Ted Gatsas said after the presentation of the much ballyhooed curriculum audit completed by the Board of School Committee before Brennan left “So, what you’re telling me is that if we’d listened to our superintendent over the past four or five years, we wouldn’t have needed this audit.” He was right. The tragic irony of Dr. Tom Brennan’s superintendency in Manchester is that he was probably too far ahead of the curve when it came to educational innovation and too nice to push back against those who often decided to shoot the messenger because they didn’t get the message.
We have lost a friend and education has lost a devoted servant and visionary. May Almighty God have mercy on his soul and grant onto him eternal rest in the room prepared for him in His house and may the Hand of God comfort and strengthen his family and friends in this time of grief.
As more is known about his passing and or arrangements, we will share the information.