Arlene Clinkscale was the first African American woman in New York State to lead a school district when she became superintendent of Nyack schools in the late 1960s. Born in Brooklyn, she was raised in Richmond, Virginia, and, as she told a recent interviewer, she knew she was destined for a career in teaching because she had a love of education, valued children, and truly wanted to be a teacher.
Dr. Clinkscale has distinguished herself in the field of education since 1950. She came to Rockland County in 1960, after ten years of teaching elementary school in Virginia. She taught in Pearl River and Spring Valley for six years before taking on a series of senior administrative positions in the East Ramapo and Nyack central school districts, rising to the rank of district superintendent in Nyack in 1981. She served as principal for Englewood Public Schools in addition to assistant superintendent and acting superintendent. Her most recent position in the public school system was in Roslyn, Long Island, where she served as educational consultant for minority affairs.
When she was interviewed in 1983 by Ebony Magazine for the feature article “Superwomen of Public Education,” she said the problems she encountered because of her sex and race did not come in Nyack; instead, they came when she journeyed throughout the State of New York. “The first superintendent’s meeting I attended, I was the only black woman there,” she said. “It’s hard to distinguish whether problems are the result of being Black or being female, . . . and some people expect you not to be able to do the job.”
In addition to her public school service, Dr. Clinkscale taught as an adjunct faculty member of the City University of New York. She is a past chair of RCC Board of Trustees and the recipient of many awards, including the Women Pioneers of Education Award from the CEJJES Institute in 2013. She currently serves as Trustee Emeritus on the Board of the African-American Historical Society of Rockland County.