Teachers College Community School founding principal dies

The principal of the Teachers College Community School in Harlem has died, President Susan Fuhrman told college officials Monday.

Jeanene Worrell-Breeden, a veteran educator who served as a New York City teacher and school administrator for two decades, was a “tireless champion for all of the children” of the Teachers College Community School, Fuhrman said in an email. “She will be sorely missed by the students, families, and staff.”

The school, which is partnered with Columbia University’s Teachers College, opened in September 2011 with 50 kindergarten students. The school currently serves pre-kindergarten through third-grade students, and will eventually serve about 300 students through eighth grade.

Nancy Streim, associate vice president for school and community partnerships at the Teachers College, said the school “is heartbroken” over Worrell-Breeden’s “untimely death.”

Worrell-Breeden “was a forceful leader and a tireless advocate for the school’s children,” Streim said in an email. “The school has become a uniquely vibrant and dynamic learning environment, with a close knit community of thriving students and engaged families. The outpouring of grief by students, parents and staff reflects how much she was loved by the school community.”

Chancellor Carmen Fariña said in a statement that she “was deeply saddened to hear” of the passing of Worrell-Breeden, who was a “devoted educator.”

Fuhrman said the city education department will appoint an interim principal until Worrell-Breeden’s successor is selected, a process in which Teachers College “will play an important role.”

The Teachers College Community School opened in East Harlem, but moved to its current West Harlem location for the start of the 2012 school year and was heralded by community leaders as a new district school option for a neighborhood packed with charter schools.

As the school settled into its new home, Worrell-Breeden told Chalkbeat in 2012 that the school’s biggest logistical challenge had been solved, but said it now had to make sure the students’ needs were being met and that the school was inclusive to the new families in the Manhattanville neighborhood.

Before teaching at Teachers College Community School, Worrell-Breeden was an assistant portfolio manager on Wall Street, according to her online biography. She moved to teaching in 1995, and served as principal at the Bronx’s P.S. 30 and P.S. 18, where the New York Post reported that she was the subject of an overtime investigation.

If you’d like to share a remembrance of Worrell-Breeden, leave a comment or send an email to Chalkbeat’s community editor, Stephanie Snyder.

Remembering Worrell-Breeden

“It is with heartfelt sympathy to hear of the passing of Jeanene. She had opened her school to us last year during our New York Conference for Laboratory Schools and we have always appreciated her efforts and her deep concern for children and their education.”

— Patricia Diebold, International Association of Laboratory Schools executive director

“Ms. Breeden taught at my elementary school when I was just a kid. She was always so encouraging and made learning fun and enjoyable. Teachers like her made us want more out of life. I am now an adult and all I can hope is that when I have my own children that they are fortune enough to have teachers half as good as she was.”

— Michele Q. Williams

“She was a strong, intelligent, and excellent leader and educator. She gave me my first job in teaching, and taught me everything I know about being an effective educator. I think of her most often as saying, ‘Teaching is the toughest job you’ll ever love.’ The news of her death shocks and saddens me terribly. May she rest in peace.”

— Melissa Vaccaro

“Hearing this news has been very sad and heart-breaking. Ms. Breeden was the first administrator I worked with and working at P.S. 18 was when I began my teaching career. I remember her telling me and a coworker that our ‘enthusiasm was contagious’ and it was important to take that with us. To this day, we still remember those words. May she rest in peace.”

— Christine Guiffra

“There are many words that describe Principal Jeanene Worrell-Breeden – a leader, inspiring, supportive, understanding, a visionary. But we are at a loss for words when it comes to her passing. She was a woman like no other. She had her beliefs and stood firmly by them. We trusted her with the education and safety of our children, and she never let us down. She often encouraged us to find teaching moments in unfortunate circumstances. This is one of those times. We don’t understand why some things happen, and it’s even more difficult to explain the unexplainable to our young children. But during these unfortunate circumstances, we must look to what Principal Breeden stood for, what she believed in, and what she envisioned for our school and, most importantly, for our children. And in that teaching moment, we will be able to continue her story.”

— Laurie Kindred, on behalf of the parents of the Teachers College Community School

Correction: The Teachers College Community School is partnered with Columbia University’s Teachers College and managed by the Department of Education.