losing a leader

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. 

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.