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Departing school official leaves scholarship

Idowu Ogundipe

Shelter Island School District business official Idowu Ogundipe, who announced his resignation last week after being here only a year, is leaving a legacy of a scholarship to be given for the next four years of $250 to a graduating senior.

The conditions of the scholarship are that the graduate comes from a low-income family who may be living with a guardian or single parent.

The criteria mirror Mr. Ogundipe’s life. Born and raised in Nigeria, his father died when he was 6 years old and he went to live with an aunt because his mother couldn’t provide for all of her children.

Mr. Ogundipe is also leaving a piece of his heart on Shelter Island, he said, a place where he never expected to find the welcome from colleagues and residents that he received.

He admits he knew nothing about the Island when he first applied for the job. With a master’s degree in accounting from Long Island University, he was sending resumes to several school districts, including the Island’s, and was called for an interview.

That morning, his wife speculated that her African-born husband would be the only one on the Island who looked like him. He thought she was probably right, but checked a map, located Shelter Island and left home in Uniondale to check out the job.

He found the Island beautiful and the Board of Education welcoming, with one negative — a long daily commute to and from Uniondale. With a wife, two teenage daughters and a son who was 7, he wasn’t sure how that would mesh with his home life. But he figured he wouldn’t get the job anyway.

When he got called back for a second interview the possibility of taking the job loomed larger — but still there was that commute.

Accepted for the position of district business official, he found a rental that cost him $1,000 a month, but it required his being away from his family during the week. Still, he gave it a try. His landlady often cooked for him and if he was working at home on a snowy day, would show up with hot cocoa. She is typical of the warmth and hospitality he received from the community, he said.

For the past year, he’s arrived on the Island about 8:30 a.m. Monday mornings and left on Friday nights to return to Uniondale.

Despite the commute and the time away from his family, he would have stayed, but the Wyandanch School District offered him a job much closer to home.

Apparently Wyandanch had been doing its own search and read stories about him and decided he might accept an offer.

Mr. Ogundipe expects to return to the Island to present the scholarship checks he’s funding.

“This is the best place I’ve ever worked,” Mr. Ogundipe said.