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April 09. 2014 10:04PM

Former Manchester school chief Tom Brennan dies a year after he retired


Thomas Brennan (Union Leader File)

MANCHESTER — Tom Brennan, the easy-going superintendent who led city schools for five years, has died of the esophageal cancer diagnosed within a couple of weeks of his retirement last year, a school board member said.

Brennan died Wednesday morning, former school board vice chairman David Gelinas said. He called Brennan innovative and a gentleman.

"He had a deep love for the students, and he worked very hard to make a difference," school board member John Avard said.

Brennan was hired in 2008 by then-Mayor Frank Guinta and led Manchester schools during some of its most difficult budget times, Avard said. Those included teacher layoffs, overcrowded classrooms and the emergence of an activist parents group.

No information about services was available Wednesday. With Mayor Ted Gatsas hospitalized, the mayor's office said it had no information about Brennan's death.

Brennan left the job in June 2013. Later that summer, he was diagnosed with cancer, according to previous news accounts.

By the time the cancer was discovered, it had metastasized through the muscles, something that doctors at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston had never seen before, radio talk show host Richard Girard reported on Facebook.

"You never want that to happen to anybody, but there's something about it when you start that (next) phase in your life," said Ben Dick, president of the 900-member Manchester Education Association.

Brennan's accomplishments include the conversion of Manchester School of Technology to a four-year high school and the implementation of programs that encourage students to learn outside the classroom. Last spring, he overcame resistance from veteran teachers and reformed the district program for students with limited English skills.

Avard credited Brennan with bringing an atmosphere of communication and cooperation to the district.

"The employees were beginning to feel they were part of a team," Avard said. "He started the process of building the team."

Dick said Brennan rarely lost his temper. He attributed Brennan's easy-going style to the human connection he made with everyone.

"He never forgot the human element of what he was doing," Dick said.

Brennan was an assistant superintendent in Manchester from 1998 to 2000. He left Manchester to become superintendent in New London, where he maintained his home even after taking the Manchester job.

mhayward@unionleader.com


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