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 Board Chairman Henry B. Schacht and newly appointed 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. Overnight, the school nearly doubled in size, from 46 to 86 students and 22 to 50 staff.