Injury Breaking Up Water Street Brawl Led To New Career


Injury Breaking Up

Water Street Brawl

Led To New Career

Hard Work, Hartwick Teaching Degree

Set Brindley On Road To Superintendent

A former cop, an injury forced Thomas Brindley to pursue another career path, and he was named Oneonta school superintendent Wednesday.  (Ian Austin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Exclusive

ONEONTA – Could Thomas Brindley, who will become the new superintendent of Oneonta City Schools on July 1 when Joseph Yelich retires, have been a police chief by now?

“I was an Oneonta police officer for seven years,” the assistant superintendent and former Oneonta High School principal said in an interview after the news of his promotion became public today. “I was 20 and a SUNY Oneonta student when I started with the department in 1987.”

But in 1994, breaking up a brawl on Water Street resulted in a career-ending shoulder injury. “I spent the next year convalescing,” said Brindley who became assistant superintendent at the end of last year. “And then I got the job at Hartwick.”

“I was working as the overnight security officer at Hartwick College from 10:30 p.m. to 6 a.m.,” he said. “Then I’d do a full course load, deliver pizzas from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and go back to work. It was a great experience, but a busy time.”

As an employee, he was allowed to take classes, and he got his degree in History. He did his student teaching at Cobleskill-Richmondville, and then learned from his adviser that Oneonta High School needed a middle school history teacher.

He taught from 2000 until 2007, when then-principal Mike Shea asked him if he would step in as associate high school principal. “This was mid-year,” he said. “I asked, ‘Next year?’ and he said ‘Next week.’ It was a no-brainer to say yes.”

It was a role he held until Yelich arrived from the Jamestown school district in 2013.  “He had been superintendent for 13 days when he called me and asked me to be the principal,” Brindley said.

He got his current job when “the board voted to consolidate the directors of curriculum and instruction, facilities, transportation and safety into the assistant superintendent position,” he said. “It was an opportunity to learn and grow.

As the assistant superintendent, he helped design and implement the school’s capital project, a two-part plan currently underway. “We’re replacing all the lights in the district with LED fixtures, renovating all of the athletic locker rooms and the pool deck.”

The project will continue over the summer with a redesign of the Family and Consumer Sciences wing, which Brindley had extensively championed. “I’ve very much enjoyed being immersed in the building project,” he said.

He is also working on upgrading security in the elementary school and looking at more ways the school can reduce energy costs, including installing new boilers. “Green energy is something all institutions need to consider,” he said. “We want to make our systems as energy efficient as possible.”

As superintendent, Brindley intends to restore some of the positions consolidated into his former position, rather than seek a replacement. “I don’t think the district needs an assistant superintendent,” he said.

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