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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

Georgia Brandeis, Assistant Principal of Instructional Support Services, takes new job in DOE’s central office

Katherine Lian
Former Assistant Principal of ISS takes new job in the DOE’s central office.
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On October 2, former Assistant Principal of Instructional Support Services (ISS) Georgia Brandeis began a new job at the NYC Department of Education’s (DOE) central offices. Her job will be to implement the recommendations of the NYC Department of Education’s task force on special education called “Boldly Reimagining Special Education.” Her last day at Townsend Harris High School was Friday, September 29.

In an interview with The Classic, Ms. Brandeis discussed the reason for this occupational switch and reflected on her years as the leader of the Special Education department at THHS. She said that her choice to leave was based on her desire to try to help improve Special Education across the city.

For the past year, Ms. Brandeis has been collaborating with the chancellor’s special education task force, talking with NYC Public Schools staff, families, and students, and curating new initiatives to improve the quality of special education. She was given the opportunity to carry out the findings and recommendations of the task force in select pilot schools across the city, expanding access to programs for students with various disabilities.

“Last year, the chancellor and the mayor were talking about how we had to reimagine special education. It’s always been treated as a separate thing, and students don’t always feel supported. Schools didn’t always feel inclusive,” said Ms. Brandeis, “So [after joining the task force] I thought, ‘let me go and try and see if we can bring things to other schools and other communities and other students [beyond THHS].’”

Ms. Brandeis has been a part of the DOE for the past 17 years, primarily working to support students with Individual Education Plans (IEP) or 504 plans.

“The one thing [about THHS] that I want to bring to other [schools] is saying yes to students who want to create things so they can have everything they need to go into the world and be happy, healthy, and feel like they were given every opportunity,” she said.

Assistant Principal of Organization Veronica York collaborated with Ms. Brandeis to build the Special Education program at THHS, which Ms. York called a “dream program.”

“I interviewed [Ms. Brandeis] nine years ago, it was me and [former] principal [Anthony] Barbetta,” said Ms. York. “She was our first candidate of the evening and was everything we were looking for at that time, someone who really cared, had creative ideas and would be able to handle problems that other people didn’t even foresee happening.” She added that Ms. Brandeis worked to make not just the ISS department what it is today but also created a safe environment within the school.

In regards to learning and growing within their partnership, Ms. Brandeis said, “we would go to conferences and visit other schools, and we kept coming up with every idea that we could possibly come up with to make our program the strongest one in the city.”

Ms. Brandeis believed that THHS had potential as there were no limits on what could change. She wondered why students should remain in the traditional chairs and desks when she could create a comfortable and colorful learning environment. These thoughts, along with the support of Ms. York led to the creation of the Zen Den. “Ms. York ordered a million things and then we were [in THHS] with a bunch of students,” she said, “she was stapling grass on the wall and I was sticking decals on the wall and on the ladders and pulling out ugly pieces of ceiling.”

Senior Maisha Rahman has been working with Ms. Brandeis for her entire time at THHS. “[Ms. Brandeis] has always been available to help clarify any general confusions I have had, she handled everything with tireless grace, energy, a desire to help, and consistency,” she said, hoping that the ISS department continues to “cultivate trust between families and staff” following Ms. Brandeis’s departure.

Sophomore Jazlyn Febles also spoke about her experience with Ms. Brandeis. “Ms. Brandeis was a spectacular person who was so determined to help me. I’m forever fortunate for her ability to help others, and [her] care for the community,” said Jazlyn.

In regards to the future of the ISS Department, there will be no direct replacement for Ms. Brandeis in the immediate future, according to Principal Brian Condon. Instead, ISS teachers Natali Frank, Vidya Chow, Nancy Badum, Katherine Gelbman and Brian Remy will continue the responsibilities of Ms. Brandeis, with each educator focusing on a specific role.

Ms. Frank said, “I am helping to facilitate the transition and coordinating the Instructional Support Services department. I work alongside a team of fantastic educators with specific specialties such as the Transition Coordinator, Testing Coordinator, and IEP Coordinator to ensure that students are supported and that their educational needs are met.”

“I think what we do is important for not only the ISS population, but also for the school as a whole. What I think is important in life is to understand who you are and how you best learn and grow. Knowing this is a life-long venture. Part of what I loved about Ms. Brandeis was how our conversations about disability were not limited to what happens in a classroom,” said Mr. Remy.

Ms. Brandeis’s work and contributions to this department will continue on as they are facilitated by this select group of teachers. “My hope is to continue to carry the torch of the department she created and to continue to support students in the ways that help them become successful here at THHS and after they graduate high school. This idea of supporting students is not limited to a particular group of students, but every student at Townsend Harris High School and to all students across the city. My hope is that every school is able to build the support systems that we have here at THHS,” Ms. Badum said.

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About the Contributors
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.
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.
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.
Katherine Lian, Multimedia Chief
Katherine Lian is a senior at Townsend High School who enjoys taking pictures, dancing, and trying new things. Her favorite memory with The Classic was her trip to Albany with her peers.
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    FreddyOct 29, 2023 at 8:44 pm

    We really miss you, Ms. Brandeis.