The Gillen Brewer School was founded in 1992 by Laura Bilicic and Laurie Dubos as a school for children with significant learning challenges. As special education teachers, they saw the overwhelming need for a school in New York City where families with children who have significant special needs would be welcomed, educated and supported. The founders believed that a knowledgeable and informed family was invaluable to each child’s overall education. To underscore the importance of family, the school was named after the founders’ grandmothers, Mattie Gillen and Virginia Brewer. The school opened in 1992 with one student and added classes until it reached 48 students from Pre-K through second grade. Forty-eight students were housed in what had once been the servants’ quarters of a stately mansion on Park Avenue. It soon became apparent that more room was needed, not only to accommodate more students, but also to house the ever expanding academic and therapeutic programs. In 2003, under the leadership of Chairman Emeritus Henry B. Schacht and former Head of School, Donna Kennedy, the school began a search for a new location. In August 2005, the school moved to its current location at 410 East 92nd Street. The school currently has a capacity for 82 students.
"We are ever so grateful for the support and tools that were provided to our son throughout the years of his attendance at Gillen Brewer. It is evidence that your school's mission has been achieved and continues to impact the lives of students well after they have left the school.
- Alumni Parent
Student culture is enthusiastically supported at a school-wide level. All students have the same school-wide expectations of being ready, responsible and safe. Students are encouraged to accept each other’s differences and are explicitly taught that “everyone is working on something” at Gillen Brewer. Individual classes organize fundraising drives for charity and engage all students in these efforts. The staff encourages students to become more engaged with their peers during community lunches and during the end of the day activities that cross classroom boundaries. The school uses the term “community of learners” to define and reflect the culture of the school. In every aspect of the program, from staff development to parent training, the Gillen Brewer community is in a state of reflection and learning, putting what we have learned into practice. Through reflection and action, the school is able to individualize the program to meet the needs of each child and family.