NORTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Since he was in high school Brian Farrell has worked with kids, coaching teams as a volunteer and umpiring games to make a little extra money. He continued this through college as he earned a degree in marketing from St. John’s University in New York, and after as he worked at major financial institutions in New York City.
But the pull of working with kids was too strong, and Farrell decided after just a few years that that was where his interests lay. A career change was in order, and after earning a Master’s in the Art of Teaching from Monmouth University he left the banking world behind and became a fifth grade teacher in Howell, NJ, for six years.
“The relationships with the kids, teaching them about teamwork and sportsmanship, was so rewarding that I wanted to expand it,” said Farrell. “I wanted to spend all my time mentoring children instead of just my extra time.”
Farrell brings that love of children and desire to teach to North Plainfield as the new principal for East End School following the retirement of Principal Kathleen Hermann in February. Farrell is currently acting Principal at Lindeneau Elementary School in Edison, and will remain in that position until he transitions to the North Plainfield school district on Thursday, April 3.
Farrell says he is eager to come to North Plainfield, and says the student population that make the position a challenge also make it appealing.
“I’m very excited about coming to East End; the school has a lot of character,” said Farrell. “This is my third school with a lot of diversity, and that means it’s got a lot of potential. I look forward to working with everyone – custodians, students, teachers, parents and the community – to be sure we take advantage of everyone’s knowledge and skill.”
The new principal wants to ensure the students have the technology, teachers and support necessary to bring academic improvement. Farrell says he plans to use the remainder of this school year to get to know the physical plant, the staff and the families he will be taking care of, and then to spend the summer putting together plans for the coming year.
Farrell is interested in working with parents, whether it’s through the Parent Teacher Organization in developing resources for the students, or just talking with parents when they need a hand.
“I have an open door policy,” he says. “If a parent wants to talk to me and I’m on campus and available, I will drop what I’m doing and sit with them. My goal is to make sure they feel as much a part of the school as staff and students.
“And the PTO is a direct extension of our school community. They play a very important role in supporting our students and school. Strong parent-teacher-school interactions are vital partnerships that create a shared vision of the school.”
Another challenge facing East End School is that Superintendent Marilyn Birnbaum has announced her own retirement, and her replacement has not been announced.
“With change comes opportunity, and a new principal and superintendent is certainly a big change,” said Farrell. “And I think we have a real chance here to rise to the challenge and help make the school better for the students, teachers and families.”
Challenges are nothing new to Farrell, who has led schools through academic challenges as well as disasters. Recently another Edison elementary school, James Monroe, burned down thanks to a careless employee who tossed a cigarette in a garbage can. Farrell was in a unique position to support the teachers, students and families after dealing with similar circumstances in his previous position at Monmouth Beach.
“We lost an elementary school to Hurricane Sandy when I was principal there, and had to deal with a lot of similar issues as they are dealing with in Edison now,” said Farrell.
It’s not just the logistics of finding classroom space and materials for seven grades of children, but about ensuring they are emotionally ready to learn. “It’s very stressful for everyone, and the adults have to manage their own stress while keeping it from the students,” said Farrell. “I was glad to be able to lend my experience, and Edison has done a phenomenal job getting all those children back to class in just two days.”