Eighteen Conferred with Doctorates in Education


Pictured Above: Dr. Ramon Mejia Sanchez (l.) and Dr. Rey E. Serrano, among the 18 students of the doctoral program being honored in the pre-reception.

Their studies and arduous research touched on many key issues in education, including schools’ preparedness for students with autism, leadership styles of educators, and the challenges faced by career-change educators. For their work, 18 students in the Manhattanville College Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership are graduating this week.

The educators, in districts from Warwick, N.Y. to Connecticut to New York City, comprise the program’s fifth graduating class.

“These eighteen practitioner scholars are most deserving to be part of Manhattanville’s small yet quickly growing and very prestigious community of doctoral graduates,” said Renee Gargano, the assistant coordinator of the doctoral program in educational leadership, in a pre-graduation ceremony at Manhattanville on Tuesday.

The newly minted Doctors of Education were recognized with a toast and accolades at a reception in the West Room of the Reid Castle at the college in Purchase. College President Michael Geisler congratulated the graduates with a touch of humor about the laborious effort it takes to complete a dissertation.

“Tonight, I want you all to raise a glass to the survivors of the Manhattanville Doctoral Program,” he said.

The program, operated in partnership with Putnam | Northern Westchester BOCES, is designed for mid-career professionals with some leadership experience. The program integrates coursework, field experience, and applied research. Class schedules are arranged to meet the needs of working educational leaders, with sessions that meet after school hours. Classes are held at BOCES’ Yorktown campus during the fall and spring semesters, while candidates go to Manhattanville during the summer.

Dr. Shelley Wepner, Dean of the School of Education, recognized the challenges involved in balancing competing needs in her comments to the students.

“Each of you has created your own path to success based on your work requirements, on your family requirements and on your personal requirements,” she said.

Leah Pollack Raftis, one of the graduates, said she appreciated the program’s “cohort” approach, keeping students and faculty together for at least the first two years of study to help them form bonds.

“It’s a close-knit group and the professors are very supportive,” said Raftis, coordinator of Special Education for Dutchess County BOCES.

Brandon Beck, who earned the nickname “Night Owl” for working into the wee hours, said his time and efforts in the program sparked some self-reflection.

“It made me think more deeply about the possibilities of what it means to be someone who is not only a teacher but an advocate for educators,” said Beck, a dual language teacher in Ossining.

The graduates earned their doctoral degrees from Manhattanville College, which launched the program in partnership with Putnam | Northern Westchester BOCES’ Center for Educational Leadership seven years ago. Two students were given awards. Dr. Gina Marie Stenza Pin was granted an award for Academic Excellence in Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership. Dr. Jennifer Wilson received the award for Outstanding Leadership in the Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership program.

Dr. Brandon T. Beck is a dual language teacher in Ossining. His dissertation is entitled, “The Influence of Professional Development on Teachers of Emergent Bilinguals.”

Dr. Brendan Byrne has been head of the Harvey Middle School in Katonah for eight years. His dissertation is entitled, “Instructional Leadership in Independent Schools: A Study of the Leadership Behaviors of Principals and Division Heads.”

Dr. Toni Ann Carey is the District Coordinator for Elementary Special Education in the Bedford Central Schools. Her dissertation is entitled, “Facilitating Responsive Literacy Programs: The Relationship Between Multi-Sensory Training of Elementary Teachers and Self Efficacy to Teach Reading.”

Dr. Lisa Ann Coppola is the Dean of Academic Advisement at Berkeley College in White Plains. Her dissertation is entitled, “Roads Less Traveled: Challenges Facing Career-Changers in Alternative Teacher Preparation Pathways.”

Dr. Andrew J. Ecker is the Special Education School Improvement Specialist for the Lower Hudson Regional Special Educational Technical Assistance and Support Center at Putnam-Northern Westchester BOCES in Yorktown Heights. His dissertation is entitled, “Initial Principal Readiness to Interconnect Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports and School Mental Health: A Sequential Multivariate Exploratory Analysis.”

Dr. Martin N. Fitzgerald is Principal of Robert E. Bell Middle School in Chappaqua. His dissertation is entitled, “Intention and Impact: Implementing New York State’s DASA Policy in High Performing Middle Schools.”

Dr. Jennifer Harriton-Wilson is the Educational Technology Coordinator for Putnam-Northern Westchester BOCES. Her dissertation is entitled, “A Confirmatory Factor Analysis of the Energy Sources Team Self-Assessment Survey.”

Dr. Candie Lorenz has been a business education teacher at Walter Panas High School in the Lakeland Central School District for 15 years. Her dissertation is entitled, “The Impact of Institutional Community College Policies and Programs on Student Retention: A Multiple Case Study.”

Dr. Jeremy C. Luft is Director of Curriculum and Instruction for the Hastings-on-Hudson Union Free School District. His dissertation is entitled, “A Study of the Potential Relationship Between Home Technology Use and Student Achievement.”

Dr. Amy L. Michaud-Wells has served as English teacher and administrator in various public education settings for more than 17 years. Her dissertation is entitled, “Building Adaptive Capacity of Pathways in Technology Early College High School Stakeholders: A Multiple-Case Study on the Influence of Performance, Leadership, and Organizational Learning.”

Dr. Gina Marie Stenza Pin is the Assistant Superintendent and Head of School at Joel Barlow High School, Region #9 in Redding, Connecticut. Her dissertation is entitled, “Job Satisfaction Among Resilient and Mindful Teachers and Administrators: A Second-Order Factor Analysis Using Structural Equation Modeling (SEM).”

Dr. Lisamarie Poveromo-Spindler is the Principal of Warwick Valley Middle School in Warwick, N.Y. Her dissertation is entitled, “Block Scheduling in an Era of Common Core Curriculum: A Case Study of Administrators’ and Teachers’ Perceptions of Classroom Practices and Academic Engagement.”

Dr. Leah Pollack Raftis is Coordinator of Special Education in Dutchess County BOCES. Her dissertation is entitled, “Principal Readiness for Students with Autism in the Public School Setting: A Study of Self-Efficacy and Leadership Practices.”

Dr. Kevin A. Roberts is the Director of Field Placement and Certification for the School of Education at Manhattanville College. His dissertation is entitled, “An Analysis of New York State Hudson Valley Local Wellness Plans.”

Dr. Ramon Mejia Sanchez is an instructional lead for a network of 80 high schools in the Bronx with the New York City Department of Education. His dissertation is entitled, “A Structural Equation Model of the Combined Effects of Teacher and Student Academic Optimism on Student Achievement.”

Dr. Ide Seide has held various roles in education over 23 years, including as an elementary school principal in the Bronx and in the Clarkstown Central School District in Rockland County. Her dissertation is entitled, “Leadership and Followership: An Integrative Phenomenological Analysis.”

Dr. Rey E. Serrano is the Mathematics Chairperson for grades 6 – 12 at the Irvington Middle School and High School. His dissertation is entitled, “Elementary Teachers’ Perceptions Surrounding New Mathematics Reform: Implications for Teacher Self-Efficacy.

Dr. Maria Helen Thompson is Director of Humanities, K-12, for the Pelham Public Schools. Her dissertation is entitled, “A Study of the Relationship Between Principal Leadership Style and Collective Efficacy in Equity-Oriented High Schools.”

While the accolades went to the 18 graduates of the program, Gargano also recognized the faculty, fellow students and family and friends of the honorees and their role in supporting the students.

“Everyone with us this evening has participated in their success,” she said.