Special Education teacher Georgia Brandeis to remain at Townsend Harris

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Special Education teacher Georgia Brandeis, who had planned to take a new job at the Queens North borough field support office Queens earlier in the year, will be staying at Townsend Harris High School. Ms. Brandeis planned to leave mid-year, but was unable to be released as the school could not find a replacement to hire for her position. Ms. Brandeis said that though she will remain at THHS as a teacher, she will now have greater involvement in coordinating the special education department with the rest of the school.

Regarding her decision to stay, she commented that though she was excited about “the possibility of a new opportunity [and a]…. new learning experience that would have given [her] a new opportunity to work with others in the field, [she] love[s] our school.”

Students and faculty are excited to have Ms. Brandeis stay.

Senior Sumona Rahman said, “I’m glad she’s not leaving…. her interactions with students leave an impression…She’s not only a teacher, but a friend.”

Senior Sidney Tolentino expressed, “Ms. Brandeis was an irreplaceable part of my high school experience. I’m overjoyed to find out that she’ll continue to be a part of our community.”

In regards to her students, Ms. Brandeis said, “I want to be around young people, [and] I was struggling with the concept of saying goodbye to my students.  I want the opportunity to… continue to learn from my students.”

Principal Brian Condon told The Classic that he has met with Ms. Brandeis “many times” and said she is “really committed to the kids [and] really passionate about what she does.”

He commented on how Ms. Brandeis is “really connected to the school.” He feels that she builds “strong relationships with students…and families” and is “an asset to the community.”

Mr. Condon’s future plans for the special education department include identifying students’ strengths. “We’re really trying to take an asset based approach and that’s something I really like about Ms. Brandeis…she’s focusing on what students do well. She’s using that as the lever to move student achievement forward,” said Mr. Condon.

Assistant Principal of Pupil and Personnel Services Veronica York said, “I believe that Ms. Brandeis is an extraordinary teacher. We’ve worked closely together to build a program that I could really be proud of.”

Initially, Ms. York was “upset…to lose such an amazing educator…who passionately cares about the school and her students” when she found out Ms. Brandeis planned to take a new job.

When asked about Mr. Condon’s interactions with Ms. Brandeis’ department, Ms. York explained, “From the moment that he [Mr. Condon] first started…he wanted to know the population…and how he could support [the students].”

At a meeting in February, Ms. Brandeis shared concerns about the absence of meetings that were held last year. She explained how last year, marking period meetings were held where a team of teachers would discuss students and discover what is best suited to their learning and how to share practices from different classes. However, these meetings were not held when Rosemarie Jahoda was serving as Interim Acting Principal of the School, despite requests for them.

Under Mr. Condon, however, two such meetings have already taken place. According to Ms. York, Mr. Condon wishes to pursue more meetings with teachers to discuss the needs of special education even more often than they were held previously before. He wishes to conduct such meetings “every two to three weeks,” not just every marking period. He also wants to tailor “the conversation to be more goal oriented on what’s exactly on the student’s IEP [Individualized Education Program].”

Regarding concerns Ms. Brandeis previously had about her department, she remarked, “With our new principal, great things are happening again.  We are building our team, gathering ideas and really working towards something great.  My concerns were addressed and I think next year will be even better and stronger.  Mr. Condon has absolutely made every effort to prioritize the department and offer insight and support and is absolutely a true ally.”

Ms. Brandeis concluded, “I feel extremely grateful and excited. I need students in my world.  There’s so much left still to do and to give.”