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Born and educated in Washington, DC, Rhody McCoy graduated from Howard University and New York University, before teaching in New York for 18 years and becoming an acting principal. He was chosen to serve as superintendent of the Ocean-Brownville school district in 1967. An experiment in school decentralization, the district was to be run by a governing board with more representation from parents and community organizations. The teacher's union fought McCoy's efforts to bring in three new principals of color and remove 19 teachers and administrators, calling a strike in September 1968. Amid mounting tensions and allegations of anti-Semitism by the district, the New York Board of Education rescinded McCoy's decisions and disbanded the governing board.