City's Longest Serving Principal Retires

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Madeleine Brennan, the longest-serving principal in New York City, said goodbye to teachers, students and other fans on Wednesday, her last day on the job at J.H.S. 201 The Dyker Heights School. Dressed in a light pink suit, with her signature coiff of pale blonde hair, Brennan thanked her staff for their years of service.

 “They are the most professional, dedicated, hard-working teachers that any principal would die for," Brennan said. "It’s a sad day, but it’s also a happy day.”

For 50 years, Brennan has served as the Dyker Heights principal. Staff and students noted her strict attention to detail and insistence on professionalism.

“We’re the best dressed staff - that’s her policy,” said Abbas Qureshi, a science teacher. “No jeans! And as you can see, no one’s wearing jeans today.”

Brennan spoke of her "best dressed" policy in a previous interview SchoolBook did with her last year. Listen to the fun audio piece below.

Sandy Sepcie has been a librarian at the school for 25 years.

“She had a vision for the school and ideals. She brought us up to that level,” Sepcie said, adding that the school has earned an “A” rating from the Department of Education the last three years.

“We’re going to keep this school number one for her,” said Sophia Balanikas, who has taught reading at the school for 16 years.

Despite her strict policies, teachers and students always felt Brennan was on their side. Sepcie noted that when the library was up for building repairs and renovations, Brennan supported her and called the contractors often to get them moving.

Nathalie Quito, 12, just finished seventh grade at the school. She said Brennan was more present than other principals she knew.

“She always watched over us and mostly just cared about the kids. Most principals just don’t care,” Quito said.

No department at the school was outside of Brennan’s purview. Barbara Borthwick-Deats, a cook at the school’s cafeteria, said Brennan often came to the kitchen and was considerate of everyone who worked under her.

“We gave her breakfast, we fed her lunch. Oh, we’re gonna miss her. She was a doll,” Borthwick-Deats said.

And her favorite lunch meal?

“Eggplant parmigiana,” Borthwick-Deats said. “She likes her Italian food.”

School administrators said they did not know who would replace Brennan in the fall, and teachers expressed concern about the change coming their way. For Brennan, her plans are not firm yet. 

“I don’t look that far ahead,” she said. “One day at a time.”