Southampton Board of Education President Accused of Abusing Power During Bomb Scare Evacuation in October - 27 East

Southampton Board of Education President Accused of Abusing Power During Bomb Scare Evacuation in October

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SunHe Sherwood-Dudley

SunHe Sherwood-Dudley

authorMichelle Trauring on Nov 15, 2023

The president of the Southampton School Board has come under fire after community members accused her last week of demanding preferential treatment during an emergency evacuation at the high school following an unsubstantiated bomb threat on October 16.

According to a secondhand account from Seneca Bowen, who is the treasurer of the Shinnecock Nation Council of Trustees, SunHe Sherwood-Dudley used her position as board president to pick up her child, or children, from the school — where she was “waving around her badge,” he said — before they were shuttled to the reunification site. Sherwood-Dudley has said the accusation is unfounded.

At a meeting on Wednesday morning, November 15, the School Board approved a resolution to hire George Christopher Marzuk to conduct an investigation into the allegation, at an hourly rate of $275. All board members except Sherwood-Dudley and Jacqueline Robinson approved the measure.

“Thank God it wasn’t what we thought it was. But let’s just say that it was,” Bowen said on Monday of the threat, which proved to be a hoax. “You have our security at the school trying to deal with someone who’s being selfish versus focusing on their job, which is protecting our children.”

Toward the end of a three-hour-long Board of Education meeting last Tuesday, November 7, Shinnecock Nation Director of Education Denise Williams confronted Sherwood-Dudley, which escalated into a yelling match between the women as Williams demanded an investigation of the incident.

“You do owe it to your community to look into the concerns of one board person who prioritized their personal children, or child, over the welfare …” Williams told the board, until she was interrupted.

“That’s your opinion,” Sherwood-Dudley interjected.

“Excuse me,” Williams replied.

“I’m just telling you, you’re throwing out an allegation, and that’s your opinion,” Sherwood-Dudley said.

The back-and-forth continued until Sherwood-Dudley described the outcome of the incident as a “misinformed perception.”

“It’s not a misinformed perception,” Williams countered.

“It is, absolutely,” the board president replied, raising her voice.

“Community members stood up right at this microphone and said, ‘We are concerned that a board person …’ — nobody identified you but yourself — that you have prioritized your children’s safety over …”

“That’s a false statement right there!” Sherwood-Dudley said, shouting over Williams.

“… over that of other people’s children,” Williams continued.

“Time out, time out,” Robinson said as the yelling continued, Sherwood-Dudley repeating that the claims were untrue.

“I’m not saying whether it’s true or false,” Williams firmly stated. “I’m saying you owe it to the community members, so that when I send my kid to your school and there’s an emergency situation, that you’re not going to allow the board people to come in and say, ‘Oh, I’m a board member. I get to have my kid.’ ‘Oh, I’m a rich person down the block. I get to have my kid.’”

Earlier in the meeting, Sherwood-Dudley ambiguously addressed the swirling rumors, pointing to “the act of allowing a fraction of one moment in time to create a misinformed perception, a narrative,” which she called “harmful to this community.”

“Out of respect for this community that I have called home for 25 years and have been formally serving for the last seven, I offer my sincerest apologies for any misconceptions derived from any of my actions that day,” she said. “This role that I’ve served for the last seven years has required commitments and judgments and sacrifices that have been shaped sometimes in the moment and without hesitation, but it’s always been to help others and for the greater good of this community — and October 16 was no different.”

Sherwood-Dudley did not respond to multiple requests for comment this week.

“If she did, in fact, do that, I think it would be in her best interest and the board’s best interest for her to tender her resignation,” Bowen said on Monday. “For someone that’s been there as long as she has been, and for somebody that has abused her power in the way that she did, if this is, in fact, true, she shouldn’t be on the board anymore.”

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