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Story - Education

Apr 27, 2010 3:47 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Principal 'Cookie' Richard granted tenure at Southampton Elementary School

Apr 27, 2010 3:47 PM

Southampton Elementary School Principal Bertha “Cookie” Richard, the first Native American woman to lead a New York State public school following her 2006 appointment, has been granted tenure, a year after her first bid was denied.

The Southampton School Board honored Ms. Richard and 15 other newly tenured school district employees at a special ceremony prior to its regular meeting on Tuesday, April 20.

“As a result of living here and working in our schools and community for 20 years, Cookie Richard has become an integral part of the social fabric of our school community,” said Superintendent Dr. J. Richard Boyes, reading from a prepared statement. “She has institutional knowledge and relationships that span a generation. She is a steady, visible presence.”

A member of the Shinnecock Indian Nation, Ms. Richard started out as a resource room teacher at Southampton High School in the early 1990s, then went on to teach third grade at the elementary school for 14 years. The School Board appointed her assistant principal in 2005, and she took the reins as principal less than one year later.

Ms. Richard did not return several calls seeking comment.

The issue of her tenure drew attention last spring when the School Board voted to extend her probationary period by one year rather than grant her tenure at that time. Dr. Boyes recommended that Ms. Richard would benefit from an additional year of mentoring and administrative experience, as well as having the chance to meet certain expectations he had set for her regarding the district’s dual-language program and incorporating the prekindergarten into the elementary school.

Dr. Boyes said Ms. Richard has now met or exceeded these goals.

Supporters of Ms. Richard turned out in droves at School Board meetings last year over the board’s decision to deny her tenure. Many have hailed her ascent to the principal’s office as a positive reflection of the community’s diversity.

Shinnecock Tribal Trustee Lance Gumbs was one of those supporters and was delighted that she finally earned her stripes. Although he could not attend last week’s ceremony because he was attending a powwow in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he said he congratulated Ms. Richard. “It serves as an example to the people in our community and in the Southampton community as a whole that hard work and persistence does pay off,” he said.

School Board President Donald King, who voted in favor of extending Ms. Richard’s probationary period last year, said this week that he is pleased with her progress.

“I’m very happy. I think she’s grown into a fine administrator. You have to mature into the position,” he said. “From all I can see, I think she’s a wonderful person. Cookie has a big heart.”

When asked what her tenure means for the integration of the Shinnecock community in the Southampton schools, Mr. King said it was an example of breaking down barriers.

“It’s accomplishing things that maybe never would have happened maybe 50 years ago. I can never say I understand racism, but I’ve learned a lot,” he said. “There are a lot of hurdles that diversity has to overcome that I don’t have to.”

Mr. King said he does not think that racism played a part in the board’s denial of Ms. Richard’s bid for tenure last year.

Ms. Richard’s extended probationary period was set to end June 30, but her tenure went into effect April 20.

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Well, it's about time!
By goldenrod (505), southampton on Apr 26, 10 11:36 PM
Everything including the administration at SES has spiraled downward in the last 10 years at an alarming rate. Southampton needed to keep Donna Denon in the district; they were very stupid to let her go. She could have turned this school around. Sag Harbor Elementary has found a diamond that Southampton overlooked; its really too bad.
By WhalerFanForLife (13), Southampton on Apr 27, 10 8:00 AM
1 member liked this comment
By pstevens (406), Wilmington on Apr 27, 10 10:09 AM
Shes one of the most genuine people I have ever met ! Shes caring and loving towars the children as well as the parents. Her and Mr. Zahn make a great team !!
By SESMOMOF2 (21), SOUTHAMPTON on Apr 27, 10 10:43 AM
Cookie to say you have had your hands full is an understatemt. Keep up the work.
By lo-cal (78), southampton on Apr 27, 10 11:23 AM
Dad, "Mr. Santa Claus" would have said it is about time you got it!
Keep up the good work and the many positive influences that you have on the children and also people in general! Congratulations and you deserve it Cookie!
As the saying goes, " That's One Tough Cookie"
By tpipchinski (2), Riverhead on May 4, 10 1:03 AM