HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A Long Island superintendent who was brought on to turn around a troubled school district has been placed on administrative leave.
The 3 to 2 vote to ban Hempstead Superintendent Dr. Shimon Waronker from all school facilities and place him on a 60-day paid leave came close to midnight Tuesday.
The board did not provide a reason, but critics faulted him for spending funds on Master teachers and consulting they claim the district doesn’t need.
In the emergency session, Waronker was berated by board and community members, shouted down as racist, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported.
“You are so disrespectful to the people that are paying your salary,” said trustee David Gates. “At the end of the day, you’ve got to show some respect.”
“They shoved this superintendent down our community’s throat,” said parent Caprice Rines. “They knew he didn’t have experience to do what he was doing.”
“He has been a really polarizing factor,” said parent Carmen Ayala. “Unfortunately, within several weeks of him coming to the district, he proved himself to be divisive.”
At the end of the meeting, jubilant critics sang “Hit the Road Jack” as Waronker packed up his belongings.
The Harvard trained educator, who has turned around violent schools, was brought in by a previous board to reform the chronically struggling district. Just one day before the vote, CBS2 spoke to Waronker.
He recently wrote an open letter to the community criticizing the current board majority for allegedly derailing educational improvements.
“There is deep and endemic corruption in the district and it is very important that we work collaboratively to root out the corruption, because the money is not going to the kids,” Waronker said on Monday.
Warnoker says the improvements he brought in to fix the district were derailed by the school board before they could help.
“The board, without consultation, without dialogue, fired the teachers on Dec. 21,” Waronker said.
The school board claims those measures cost money the district does not have and accused Waronker of personally profiting.
Waronker says he will sue to continue his work on behalf of the children.
“It halts everything we have been doing to try to make things better for the children,” he said. “My reaction is who is here for the kids? To let go of a superintendent seven months into his tenure, in the middle of school year, requires a drastic reason and quite frankly, there is no such drastic reason.”
Waronker’s attorney Fred Brewington told WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall his client has been placed on leave because of retaliation over the positive changes that were being made.
“Within six months, he has made more changes to this system that would be helpful to the children than anyone has done in over two decades,” he said.
The school board has turned the tables, hiring lawyers to investigate Waronker’s actions, Gusoff reported.
The district has had a revolving door of administrators for years and just days ago, a state-appointed monitor blamed problems in the district on failed leadership for years.
Supporters say the district is now worse off than ever.
“Here this man is trying to do what’s right, trying to reform the schools — the whole district — and this is how they treat him?” school board trustee Gwen Jackson said.
School board member Lamont Johnson, who voted in favor of the leave, told Hall the goal is “to put the students first.”
“We’ve had certain challenges and we need to refocus on that goal,” he said.
The board issued a directive that the assistant superintendent should be in charge for now. The first order of business was taking down Waronker’s open letter to the community from the district’s website.
A spokesperson for the New York State Department of Education told CBS2 it could not comment on the superintendent’s leave, because it is being legally challenged.