The Student-Run Newspaper of Townsend Harris High School at Queens College

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The Student-Run Newspaper of Townsend Harris High School at Queens College

The Classic

The Student-Run Newspaper of Townsend Harris High School at Queens College

The Classic

After 27 years, teacher and former UFT chapter leader Franco Scardino retires

Ryan Young
Mr. Scardino, social studies teacher and former UFT chapter leader.
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At the end of January, Social Studies teacher Franco Scardino retired from Townsend Harris High School. 

Since his initial joining THHS as a student teacher, Mr. Scardino has held a multitude of positions. Along with being the head of the Social Science Research Program, now known as the AP Capstone program, he served as the senior advisor for four years and the United Federation of Teachers Chapter leader for five years.

“When I first came to THHS for an interview for my student teaching, the AP of Humanities at the time, Ms. Lynne Greenfield, gave me a tour and then a good idea of what the school was all about. I was drawn to the rigor of the program, the strong arts/music program the school has always had, and the focus on the classics, which was similar to my own high school experience,” Mr. Scardino said. 

Assistant Principal of Social Studies Rafal Olechowski, who began student teaching the same year as Mr. Scardino, praised Mr. Scardino’s character and his teaching methods. “[The school] is missing a person who is multifaceted, multitalented–someone who approaches a student not just as a number and who really cares for the kids. When they were working on social science research projects, he would come here on Saturdays and just work with kids whether there was money for it or not,” he said. 

Unlike many educators, Mr. Scardino did not have a linear career path from college to teaching. 

After graduating from New York University, he thought he would be attending law school, but deferred for a year and then changed his plans. After spending some time in Sicily with his family, he retuned to the United States to work for Merrill Lynch Wealth Management but decided that finance was not his preferred field. He then went on to work in men’s fashion, specifically working with Italian menswear designers across the East Coast.  

During his time in fashion, he worked to obtain his masters degree from Teachers College at Columbia University. His first teaching job was at THHS, where he was introduced to the social science research program through now retired Social Studies teacher Chris Hackney.

Throughout his first semester at THHS, Mr. Scardino worked with one of the founding teachers of THHS: Myron Moskowitz, who taught him an important lesson on teaching. “Something he said to me really stuck. He said, ‘Students won’t remember details of your lessons, but they will remember how you treated them and their friends,’” said Mr. Scardino.

Taking this into consideration, Mr. Scardino knew that teaching in the research program would be the best fit. “The independent nature of the program, competing in National History Day and other competitions was a good fit for me. The program really allows you to get to know students, and I still have lasting relationships with former students who completed the research sequence,” said Mr. Scardino. He noted that he greatly enjoyed the program’s aspect of “independence and creativity,” making it “never the same from one year to the next.”

“One thing that I have to say about Mr. Scardino is that he is a very intense person. He cares about everything he does very deeply. And it’s clear, he cares about the subject. He cares about the students. This kind of passion for teaching students is something that not many people have,” said Mr. Olechowski. 

Some Harrisites that he taught shared their experiences as his students in AP Capstone. 

Junior Ana Montan said that Mr. Scardino not only impacted her academically but also personally. She said, “The advice he gave me allowed me to better understand my strengths and weaknesses, and how I can grow. He was always there to reassure you in times of worry or stress… He genuinely wished the best for all of us, and it felt great to have such a figure in our lives.”

Junior Elijah Shivers said, “He’s really taught me to take my work more seriously and to do what I’m interested in rather than just focusing on grades. It was really sad to see him leave. I remember when I heard it for the first time. I didn’t even want to believe it because he made the classes really enjoyable to be a part of.”

Senior Audrey Lin said, “I will miss his humor. His witty remarks could always get the class laughing. As someone who never shied away from speaking his mind, he served as a trusted adult I could turn to for advice or simply to share news, whether it was good or bad.”

When it came to his 27th year, Mr. Scardino felt “a gut feeling that it was time to move on and hand over the AP Capstone program to a new set of teachers.” Instead of retiring at the end of last school year, he stayed until the end of the fall semester this year to provide a smooth transition to the new AP Capstone teachers: Francis McCaughey and Eleni Sardina. 

Ms. Sardina, who returned to THHS as an alumna to teach this school year, met Mr. Scardino when she was assigned to co-teach AP Research with him. She commended Mr. Scardino for his kindness in facilitating the transition and giving her a strong overview of the course. 

Referencing Mr. Scardino’s birthday celebrations for students and his passion for field trips, she said, “He did a good job building those touchpoints that weren’t always necessarily about the curriculum but about the overall experience of being together in a community.”

Senior Iyad Elbouanani, who had Mr. Scardino for all four years of high school, said, “He definitely influenced me in and out of the classroom, instilling motivation and discipline in my academics and inspiring my work ethic. My favorite memory is when he randomly made me a pumpkin waffle in his office and thanked me for helping him out. It was fire.” 

Other teachers commented on the valuable relationships they formed with Mr. Scardino throughout their time at THHS. 

Spanish teacher Beatriz Ezquerra has known Mr. Scardino since she began teaching at THHS 21 years ago. She said, “I miss him a lot. Since we don’t teach the same classes and the same subjects, let’s say that I do not miss him from that point of view because our classes are very different. But I miss his presence and we share many students, and I do notice even in those kids that they do miss him.”

Ms. Ezquerra has been friends with Mr. Scardino both in and out of the classroom. “Personally I know I can count on him as much as I want to…he’s a very good friend and I am very happy and fortunate to have him in my life,” she said. 

The relationships that Mr. Scardino has formed during his time at THHS will follow him as he lives out his plans for the future.

Athletic Director and physical education teacher Lauren Caiaccia spoke to his culinary interests as she recounted one of their first conversations. She said, “We’ve had opportunities to attend events as teachers that we both had to be at certain places. I got to know him first on the professional level in terms of chaperoning something or attending a meeting or some of the events that we have at our school. Through the years, we chit-chat talk about things. It turns out we love food, we talk about food and got to know each other a little bit better after realizing we had other things besides just work in common.”

One of Mr. Scardino’s most significant roles was as the UFT Chapter Leader. In 2017, his leadership led to widespread recognition for his efforts to unite the staff amidst a controversy surrounding the hiring of a new principal. That spring, the chapter won the Team High School Award for Queens from the UFT. Mr. Scardino’s leadership during the controversy resulted in numerous news articles citing his role and referencing his efforts

Despite that recognition, for many students it was his monthly class birthday celebrations that were most memorable. Students said these days acted as a way to not only celebrate each student’s birthday but to unify the class and celebrate their work. “Mr. Scardino had a very strong presence and personality that became my ‘wake up’ in the morning. His birthday parties were a way to create a community in the classroom that truly paid off,” said junior Tristin Hall.

“The grand takeaway from having him as a teacher is to have fun, but also keep up to date and try your absolute hardest with your work. You only have one life and it is our job to make the most of it. Solely focusing on academics and not exploring the very world around you will only lead to an isolated life. Make the most out of every opportunity as you never know if it will be offered again,” said Ana Montan.

As far as his plans after retirement, Mr. Scardino said he did not have “any immediate plans other than to take care of some things that have been neglected for a while, do some traveling, and look forward to not having to set an alarm regularly.”

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About the Contributors
Bridgette Jeonarine
Bridgette Jeonarine, Managing Editor
Bridgette is a junior at Townsend Harris High School. In her free time, she loves reading romantic comedies and catching up on the latest news stories. In the future, she hopes to obtain a law degree and pursue a career as a political journalist.
Toluwanimi Oyeleye
Toluwanimi Oyeleye, Managing Editor
Toluwanimi is a junior at Townsend Harris High School. She enjoys playing volleyball and reading in her free time. Her favorite show is The Office. When she has the opportunity, she also loves assembling things such as furniture.
Isabella Zapata
Isabella Zapata, Managing Editor
Isabella is a junior at Townsend Harris High School. She loves capturing moments in photographs and loves to travel to new destinations. She also enjoys watching films and listening to music.
Ryan Young
Ryan Young, Managing Editor
Ryan Young is a senior at Townsend Harris High School. He is a managing editor focused on The Classic TV YouTube channel. When he's not swimming or catching up on homework, you'll likely find him editing videos.
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