TOWN OF HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – The sad turmoil in one of Long Island’s struggling school districts has the attention of New York State’s highest leaders.
First, the education commissioner, and now, the governor himself is weighing in.
CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff was in the Town of Hempstead moments after the problems boiled over Friday.
Police were called to Hempstead High School after yet another student brawl, this one sending the principal to the hospital with injuries he suffered trying to break it up. It’s the latest upheaval in a school district where the adults are fighting, too – in a different way.
Now, a directive from the state. In a rare visit, New York State’s Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia summoned each school board member to a private meeting to sternly instruct them to work together.
“We are away of the changes that need to occur and we want to make sure that the trustees are equally as seriously concerned,” Elia said.
“We have a report that we hope will be used as a guide, as a roadmap,” said New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa.
The extraordinary visit from the state’s top education officials came days after a scathing report by a state-appointed, distinguished educator blamed more than a decade of failures on chaotic governance.
The same week, one board faction suspended a new superintendent brought in by a rival faction. Trustees who suspended him say the commissioner’s message is received.
“We have to get our act together and we’re going to get our act together,” Hempstead School Board Trustee Lamont Johnson said.
“There is no shame in having the state here. Where have they been? We need them,” said fellow trustee Randy Stith.
What happens if the board doesn’t deliver?
“I don’t have a crystal ball, but I will tell you that neither the chancellor nor I are accept that the children of Hempstead don’t have the opportunities,” Elia said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the next steps are up to his education commissioner but adds, “If you don’t have a real, credible, immediate plan for correction, then the state should come in and take over the school.”
The state monitor has given the school board until February 2 to put aside infighting and come up with a plan of action. It’s something that school board in the district haven’t been able to do in years, Gusoff reported.
The high school principal and a security guard were both treated at a hospital for minor injuries from Friday’s brawl.