O’Connor honored for years of service as parade Grand Marshall

By Andrew Alonzo | aalonzo@claremont-courier.com

Brett O’Connor, grand marshal for the City of Claremont’s 2024 Fourth of July Parade, is perhaps equally known for his 16 years as Claremont High School’s principal and his 15 years of community service with the Rotary Club of Claremont.

“I definitely feel like it’s an honor,” O’Connor said. “There are many people in this community that could have received this award. It’s an honor to serve this community and to live in this community, really.”

Along with 16 years at CHS, he served for one year as interim principal of San Antonio High School, and 12 years as a elementary and middle school principal for Upland Unified School District. He has also been a member of Claremont United Methodist Church for about 25 years.

“Being a principal was my career and was my employment,” O’Connor said. “That was part of my job. [And] I certainly am proud of what I do with the Rotary Club and at my church.”

O’Conner was a big supporter of CHS sports and attended several games every week.


O’Conner was a visible presence during his tenure as CHS principal.

One of the major takeaways from his years at CHS was seeing how supportive the community was for youth at all levels, from booster club parents who raised funds, to the dedicated teachers and staff that made learning possible, he said. He also gave high praise to the students he championed, and to the CUSD Board of Education.

“If the school board members were in it for the wrong reasons, I don’t think … a principal can go for 16 years,” he said.

O’Connor retired from CHS in 2023, only to be called back to head up San Antonio High for the recently completed school year. The Courier spoke with O’Connor on June 14, his last day as SAHS principal before he returned to his retirement.

“With this job here at San Antonio, I have been a site administrator at all four levels that most districts have,” he said.

After 39 years in education, he had these words for the class of 2024: “Life is filled with up and downs, but nothing good happens without hard work. Work hard at whatever passion you choose in life.”

He and his wife Ann O’Connor, CUSD’s human resources and risk management director, are parents to three boys, Ryan, Kevin and Collin. Parenting, O’Connor said, played a big role in being an effective administrator, allowing him to blend a multitude of lessons which he carried throughout his career. Among them are that each student is different, empathy with parents is key, and recognizing differing viewpoints helps to defuse and resolve conflict. Being a good listener is also on that list, a quality incoming SAHS Principal Andrea Deligio recently told the Courier O’Connor had helped instill in her as well.

O’Connor is the Rotary Club of Claremont’s treasurer and will serve as its president in 2027. He oversees most of the organization’s youth service awards, helps to inform local students about the club’s various scholarships, and organizes Rotary’s annual Dan Stover Music Competition and 4-Way Test Speech Contest.

At Claremont United Methodist Church, he is a member of its church council.

“My parents always emphasized the importance of education,” O’Connor said. “I went to a Jesuit high school, which is a Catholic high school run by Jesuits. They clearly emphasized how important service is, and I got that from my parents too. It feels good to help others, but I also really enjoy the interactions I have with the people that I’m around when I’m doing that service.

“Doing what I think is right for our students, even when it can be difficult and if it’s not a very popular decision,” have been his biggest successes throughout the years, O’Connor said. “I think as a leader, there are a lot of times we can make decisions that are expedient and convenient, but that doesn’t make them good decisions.”

O’Connor said he enjoys living in Claremont and the passionate neighbors who take part in making it a special community.

“It is a community of diverse people that are invested,” O’Connor said. “And though that can slow things down, that can be frustrating at times, it’s one of the things that makes this community a great place to raise a family in and to reside.”

O’Connor will be part of Claremont’s Fourth of July parade procession beginning at 10 a.m. at 10th Street and Indian Hill Boulevard. After that he will be working Rotary’s dunk tank.

More information about this year’s Fourth of July festivities is at claremont4th.org.


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