Madeleine Brennan, longest serving principal in city’s history, dies at 93

Madeleine Brennan
Madeleine Brennan, who served as principal of I.S. 201 for 50 years, died on April 9.
File photo

The lionized former principal of a Dyker Heights school — whose 50-year tenure made her the longest serving principal in New York City history — died on April 9 at the age of 93. 

Madeleine Brennan took the helm of Dyker Heights Intermediate School 201 on 1963 after working as a teacher in the New York City school system for 17 years. Her leadership and compassion made her a beloved fixture of the school and the surrounding community until her retirement in 2013, educators said. 

She’s an icon, a remarkable woman,” said Robert Ciulla, the current principal of Dyker Heights I.S. 201, who worked with Brennan for more than 10 years. “She influenced all the people not only in Dyker Heights, but also in the whole city of New York.”

Brennan — who is likely the longest-serving principal in the nation — was known for running a tight ship. She enforced a formal dress code, forbid lateness, and would distribute ominous notes reading “Please see me,” to staff and students who stepped out of line. But outside the classroom, Brennan was the life of the party, Ciulla said.

She a straight-forward person when it was time to work, but when it was time to have fun, it was time to have fun,” he said. “She loved to party.” 

Brennan’s fierce loyalty inspired close bonds between teachers and students, forming a sort of family that spanned generations.

There were a lot of staff members that had her as her principal,” said Ciulla, who studied under Brennan as a middle schooler before returning to become a teacher. “We present it as a family. And that’s what she made us.”

Brennan’s death was related to old age, not coronavirus, Ciulla said, adding that the school will host a large memorial service in her honor when the COVID-19 outbreak passes.

“She deserves it,” he said of the tribute.