Conard Leadership Change–Mr. Hines Becomes Principal
By: Clare Gillis
With the news that there Julio Duarte, Conard's longtime principal, would be leaving Conard in the middle of the year many felt confused and uncertain about what would happen next with someone who was seen as a huge leader within the community leaving so suddenly. Jamahl Hines stepping up to fill his shoes and act as the principal for the remainder of the 2022 school year was met with lots of support, and following this shift beginning early into the second semester Duarte’s exit has gone very smoothly. Both Duarte and Hines are pleased with how this transition has gone, and within this article Duarte reflects on his past at Conard while Hines describes his hopes for the future.
Starting with Duarte, he claimed that he had done a lot of reflecting on his time at Conard before accepting another job offer, and he was pleased with the work he had done and hoped that there were some things that he had not completed that Hines would work to finish. Duarte stated that he always wanted to “find someplace where students could go during free periods that was a good place for them to be”, and looking at bigger potential projects he wished to make the school a more welcoming place for all students. One way he hoped to do this was to embrace the variety of cultures that make up Conard's student body, and to take a next step by “looking at the world language hallway and adding pictures of students on their travels” and also adding pictures to represent different cultures and to help educate others. Stating that “Conard has been such a huge part of who I am and what I believe in” Duarte explained that despite his absence he hopes that he “left behind a legacy where students and everyone feels like Conard was a place that challenged them and pushed them to do their best”. Not only hoping that he left behind a positive legacy on Conard, Duarte expressed his faith in Mr. Hines and his ability to fill the role and to build off of what he left behind. Hines is “an absolute rockstar who was more than ready to take on the role” and he is super excited to see what work he does within the district. At Duarte's new job, while he will greatly miss Conard students and the impact he has made here he is excited for a new challenge, and he will still visit Conard as often as possible. Duarte ended his interview by saying “I hope everybody knows that I loved it there and I wasn’t looking to leave, it was just an amazing opportunity”.
On December 17th, Mr. Hines birthday, he found out that there was a good possibility that Duarte would be accepting another job and Hines would be taking his place as Conard's principal for the remainder of the year. Initially, Hines was caught off guard. He explained that he was mostly nervous because “there are so many people that would depend on me and I don’t want to let anybody down”. After conversations with his family and Mr. Moore he became very excited to take the opportunity, despite all that would be required to take on the job in the middle of the school year. It was a “whirlwind type of month” because he had found out he was assistant principal of the year, and then had to make a quick shift to principal. He was “doing two roles trying to get caught up with what Duarte had left but also trying to finish what I was doing as assistant principal”, and with all the shifts everyone was trying to make the transition as smooth as possible. As for what he is planning to work on in his new role, Hines hopes to work on the idea of making West Hartford an anti-racist district. He thinks “it has to become a part of who you are as a school and it has to be a part of your philosophy and something as a school community that we adopt and practice”, and he hopes to expand on Duarte's work with community and move beyond just talking about it and to encourage the community to truly be anti-racist and to practice that in their everyday life. Duarte also left behind a lot of work all throughout the pandemic, that Hines hopes to use on the other side of the issue as mask mandates start to get lifted and the school begins to return to a state of normalcy. Hines claimed that “getting back to some sense of normalcy is key to not just the operation of the school but our ability to socialize but our mental health and our emotional health and well being” and that “what makes school so awesome is less about the content of the disciplines its more about the connections you make within the school” and he is excited for the adverse effects that the pandemic has had on this to begin to fade. It is also important to him that we “not vilify or stigmatize people who think masks are the way to go”, and that we come together as a community to support everyone. Hines ended with saying that there is “an overwhelming feeling of pride that he has being appointed as the principal for the remainder of this year”, and he hopes to keep this position beyond this year as well.
Despite the quick change, there is no doubt that Hines was ready to take on the job and continue the work of Mr. Duarte. Navigating through difficult times, especially with the pandemic, Duarte did an amazing job that the school should be very thankful for. We wish Duarte luck at his new job, and hope that Hines will continue to succeed at his new position!
(1) Conard's official instagram account