Lexington’s Cohen to retire after 35 years

Orginally appeared in Silent News, December 2000.

Dr. Oscar P. Cohen, Superintendent and Chief Executive Officer of the Lexington School for the Deaf/Center for the Deaf, announced his retirement effective at the end of the 2000-2001 academic year.

“This year marks Lexington’s 135th year of serving the deaf community. It is also my 35th year at Lexington,” Cohen said. “Reflection has allowed me to recognize that now is the time for me to bring the same commitment I have had for Lexington to some of the other causes and interests in which I have been involved for years but have not been able to give my full attention.”

Cohen, whose father attended Lexington, graduated from Hunter College with a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s degree in teaching the deaf from Columbia University’s Teachers College. He also earned a doctorate in administration from Columbia.

Cohen began working at Lexington as a science teacher, and served in several capacities, including director of the residence programs and principal.

Lexington has served many purposes in his life, Cohen said. “Lexington has been important to me in my professional and personal life. In fact, when Lexington moved to the current campus, I lived with my wife and children in an apartment in the residence hall.”

Cohen was asked to assume the superintendent/CEO position in 1996 by Lexington’s board of directors. During his tenure, Cohen brought many changes to Lexington. He said, “I am most proud that Lexington has played a role in bringing about higher expectations for deaf persons through raising standards and confidence that all deaf persons can learn and can excel in ways perhaps we did not think possible.”

One of the notable achievements of recent is Lexington’s release of results from a study using the Mediated Learning Experience model. “This is a system that empowers teachers and parents to become more effective ‘mediators’ in children developing critical thinking skills.” Results show that students using this approach have significantly increased literacy and writing skills.

Another achievement Cohen is proud of is the emerging multiculturalism and diversity at Lexington. “We have been sensitive to different factions and perspectives in moving Lexington from an oral/aural only school to one that embraces the value and richness of sign language as a language and an essential means of communication,” he said. “We have also moved from a predominantly ‘non-cultural’ to cultural model of deafness. For example, Lexington’s board has 10 out of 24 trustees who are deaf. When I first arrived at Lexington, there were none.” Racial diversity also has increased both at the administrative and academic levels.

Philip W. Bravin, president of the Board of Trustees at Lexington, said, “Cohen has made Lexington a special place for all students, parents, clients, and staff during his 35 years of service. He has transformed the school into a model urban center of education and service. We wish him continued success and will miss his leadership and innovation.”

Cohen has served in a variety of leadership positions, including president of the Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf (CEASD) from 1994 to 1996, and currently serves as chair of the New York State 4201 Schools Association. He has three grown children, including one who wrote the acclaimed book, Train Go Sorry, and eight grandchildren.

The Lexington Board of Trustees is currently establishing a search process for a successor by the summer of 2001.

“As I explore new opportunities, Lexington will always represent a significant influence in my life,” Cohen said. “I will leave Lexington at the end of this academic year with the knowledge that I have been part of a community made of people, staff, students, and families full of unparalleled energy. Together we have made Lexington a special place.”

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