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Washingtonville administrator Melissa Pittman, a member of inaugural Orange-Ulster BOCES Signature Cohort 1, earns doctorate from Manhattanville College

Dr. Melissa Pittman

There’s a new doctor in the house at Washingtonville Middle School.  Assistant Principal Melissa Pittman recently defended her doctoral dissertation at Manhattanville College and earned the title of Dr. Melissa Pittman.

Dr. Pittman enrolled in the Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership as part of the inaugural Orange-Ulster BOCES Signature Cohort 1 two years ago, but she actually started working on her doctorate about 10 years earlier. As she said, life got in the way - but just temporarily.

Dr. Pittman learned about the program from colleagues who attended an information session about Manhattanville.

“I was very excited to have another opportunity to begin again and finish my doctorate,” Dr. Pittman said. “But I was also very purposeful in getting connected to the OU1 cohort because after nearly 10 years out of doctoral work, I was really questioning myself about whether I could really do this and be engaged because I knew the level of intensity and rigor that is involved.”

Dr. Pittman’s dissertation was “Framing Inequity: A Qualitative Study Understanding How Superintendents Frame Equity Efforts for Black Students in New York State Suburban Schools.” She shared a PowerPoint presentation and then defended the dissertation during an online meeting on April 13. After a brief deliberation, the committee announced that she had successfully defended her dissertation and proclaimed her “Dr. Melissa Pittman” for the first time.

“I was just really overwhelmed,” Dr. Pittman said. “For me this is a personal story of delayed but not denied. It took quite a while to get here, but it’s a wonderful, wonderful, sweet feeling. It was just very exciting to really get to this point and to know that it did happen and all of the hard work from the past, as well as from the more immediate present, paid off.”

According to Manhattanville’s assistant program director Renee Gargano, the doctoral committee enthusiastically applauded Dr. Pittman’s timely study.

“The committee’s main recommendation was to take this very important work and get it out there, to publish and to present,” Ms. Gargano said. “As the New York State Board of Regents launches its initiative to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in New York State schools, clearly Dr. Pittman’s study and depth of expertise will help to develop policies that advance diversity, equity and inclusion with those fortunate enough to work with her.”

Dr. Pittman has worked in the Washingtonville School District since 1998. She began as a fifth-grade teacher, advanced to assistant principal at Taft Elementary School in 2008 and became assistant principal at the middle school in 2011.

"The work that Dr. Pittman has done is extremely important in our education system today,” said Washingtonville Middle School Principal Teresa Thompson. “Her study in understanding how superintendents frame equity efforts for black students in New York State suburban schools certainly brings great insight to our district and supports the work that our district has been engaged in with the Cultural Equity in Education Project committee. Her journey in this Doctoral program is a testament to her commitment and passion on this topic, as well as to her work with Washingtonville CSD, as we strive to meet the needs of all our students in this endeavor. We are so proud of her accomplishment and grateful for her expertise in these matters."

Dr. Pittman is grateful to the faculty and staff at Manhattanville for their support. She said Manhattanville wants you to be successful and will do whatever it takes to help you reach your goal.

“I really appreciated that they were readily available,” Dr. Pittman said. “I knew very soon that I was going to be successful in this process because of the support that was there.”

Dr. Pittman also thanked the other members of the OU BOCES Signature 1 cohort. The cohort started in the fall of 2019, taking their courses at Carl Onken Conference Center at OU BOCES in Goshen.

The convenient Goshen location allowed Dr. Pittman and the other cohort members to attend in person classes without travelling to Westchester County after a long day working in their home districts in Orange and Ulster counties.

  “We are so pleased to be able to collaborate with Manhattanville to offer a supportive and engaging Ed.D. program here at OU BOCES for educators in our region.  We congratulate Dr. Pittman on her achievement and persistence; we look forward celebrating with the other members of the OU BOCES Ed.D. Cohort 1 as they move forward to defending their dissertations soon,” said Dr. Diane E. Lang, Director of Instructional Support at OU BOCES.

Manhattanville plans to start an OU BOCES Cohort 2 in their Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership in the fall of 2021. There will be a virtual information session from 7:00-8:30 p.m. on April 22, 2021. For more information, contact  or call 914-323-5142.