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May 14, 2018 2:43 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton School District Business Superintendent And High School Assistant Principal Are Retiring

Maria Mondini, assistant principal at East Hampton High School. KYRIL BROMLEY
May 15, 2018 12:40 PM

Isabel Madison, the East Hampton School District’s assistant superintendent for business, and Maria Mondini, an assistant principal at East Hampton High School, have both announced their retirement from the district.

Ms. Madison’s letter of resignation was accepted by the School Board at its April 17 meeting, while Ms. Mondini’s letter of resignation was accepted by the board at its May 1 meeting. Ms. Madison’s retirement will be effective on August 17, and Ms. Mondini’s retirement will go into effect on June 30.

The School Board was scheduled to approve the appointment of Jerel Cokley to replace Ms. Madison at its meeting on Tuesday, May 15.

According to Superintendent Richard Burns, Ms. Madison has been the district’s longest-standing administrator, at 14 years. He credited Ms. Madison’s “moral authority” in handling the district’s finances and allowing the School Board to be able to pay for capital projects, such as roof replacements for district buildings and working on the East Hampton Middle School facade.

“When she speaks about budget matters, everyone listens,” Mr. Burns said on Thursday, May 10. “She has the most challenging job in the district, but she has always been on top of her game.

Ms. Mondini will cap off her 34-year career in education as she has for the last 10 years: working alongside the high school principal, Adam Fine. Ms. Mondini and Mr. Fine have been a principal-assistant principal tag team since the 2008-09 school year, with two years at Southampton High School and the last eight at East Hampton High School.

According to Mr. Fine, East Hampton sought out both him and Ms. Mondini in the Spring of 2010 to fill the open positions of principal and assistant principal—which led both him and Ms. Mondini to be suspended and then fired by Southampton district officials after being offered posts by East Hampton.

Mr. Fine referred to Ms. Mondini on Thursday as his “educational soul mate” and commended her for helping bolster school spirit and adding to the school’s programs. Ms. Mondini helped start school clubs including the Gay Straight Alliance and Sources of Strength, which focuses on suicide prevention and teaching coping mechanisms to students.

“Maria was instrumental in making improvements to school culture,” Mr. Fine said. “She’s so good at understanding what kids need. We believe in teaching kids about mistakes and making amends.”

Mr. Fine said that after a 16-year-old East Hampton High School junior, David H. Hernandez, committed suicide in 2012, Ms. Mondini devoted her time to any student who had questions or problems relating to David’s death.

“That just shifted everything for us,” Ms. Mondini said about David’s death. “From there on, I wanted to make sure that the kids had whatever they needed.”

Ms. Mondini, he said, “spends time with the kids—she will not let anything deter her from letting kids be heard.”

Ms. Mondini said she was most proud of how the student culture has changed since she first arrived at East Hampton, and of being more able to address students’ concerns and create an overall more friendly environment. She said the high school has not seen one fight break out between students for this entire year.

“With a fight, we meet and talk about what’s going on,” Ms. Mondini said. “If a kid is having a rough day with the fight, you do have detention, but then you go back and talk about what went wrong.”

Ms. Mondini said she works in a “people business” that requires patience and perseverance to come from whoever takes over for her.

“I’ve always believed you need to lead with love,” she added. “Having a lot of patience and being nonjudgmental with kids is important. How we respond to kids makes the most difference.”

Ms. Mondini said she will be traveling to Italy with her wife, Catherine DeSanto, this September and that she would love to take courses to learn more about wine.

Mr. Fine said that the school district is in the process of finding someone to fill her position.

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