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Two Assistant Principals at Farmingdale Elementary Schools Receive Doctorate Degrees

Farmingdale School District has two more doctors in the house. Jennifer DeHayes—Assistant Principal at Woodward Parkway Elementary School— and Christopher Peterson—Assistant Principal of Northside Elementary School—have both received their Doctorate Degrees of Education in Administrative and Instructional Leadership from St. John’s University. After two-and-a-half years of coursework, and many months spent writing their dissertations, they received their diplomas during the graduation ceremony, held May 15, 2018. 

Both DeHayes and Peterson had the same advisor for their dissertations, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies, Autumn Tooms-Cypres—whom they mutually adored. “I basically clung to her leg and never let go,” grinned Dr. Peterson. Dr. DeHayes shared his sentiment. “She was like a momma bird, supporting me one hundred percent.”

Dr. Peterson pursued his doctorate immediately after earning his administrative degree, and prior to having a family. His first child, a daughter, was born just as he began writing his dissertation. He said, “I really wanted to earn my Ed.D early in my career so I could put my best self into the role of administrator. I wanted this wisdom as my career progressed, and now I have over thirty years to use the education I received.” His topic— Cultural Proficiency—gave him the opportunity to do a deep dive into researching, analyzing, and preparing best practices in education for Long Island’s changing demographics.

Dr. DeHayes wrote her dissertation about the current state of communication between classroom teachers and reading teachers; taking a look at the key factors that enhance or hinder communication. Her mentor, the aforementioned Dr. Tooms-Cypres was so impressed with her dissertation that she submitted it on Jennifer’s behalf to the University of Oxford— something she’s done only five times in 17 years. Oxford was impressed too—and invited Dr. DeHayes to present her thesis to them. Later this summer, she’s bound for England with her family to share her academic research with the esteemed institution.

Dr. DeHayes has been the Assistant Principal at Woodward Parkway for more than six years. Prior to joining the school administration, Ms. DeHayes was an elementary school teacher for eleven years in various grades, and a reading teacher for four years. She has a Graduate Certificate in Educational Leadership, with a major in School District Leadership/School Building Leadership from Stony Brook University, NY. She earned her Master’s Degree in Reading from Long Island University, Brookville, NY, and holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in the area of Elementary Education & Special Education from St. Joseph’s College.

Dr. Peterson began his doctoral pursuit just a few short months before joining the Farmingdale administration as Assistant Principal at Northside Elementary School. Prior to that he taught for eight years—four in general education and four in special education—in the Smithtown and Middle County School Districts. He graduated with a degree in Childhood Education from SUNY New Paltz and attended St. Joseph’s to earn his Masters—and received his Administrative Degree at SUNY Stony Brook.

The doctoral degree is an opportunity for educational leaders to enhance their knowledge and skills in research and current trends in education, with a view to becoming administrative and policy leaders in the field of education. The present and future students of the Farmingdale School District will be the recipients of everything Dr. DeHayes and Dr. Peterson have learned and plan to put into practice.

They both summarized their experience as life-changing and highly rewarding. “The process to get a doctorate is intense!” said Ms. DeHayes. “But I feel like I’m a better person for it.”

“If I didn’t love what I was doing it would be work,” said Mr. Peterson, “But I love it!”