HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — One of the most troubled school districts in New York state is in turmoil.
As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, a superintendent brought in to make improvements in the Hempstead School District said his efforts are being derailed by the school board.
Dr. Shimon Waronker offered a new strategy. The bilingual, Harvard-trained educator – who turned around violent city schools – was tasked this year with doing the same in struggling Hempstead, where fewer than half of the students graduate.
But with a recent shift in the school board majority, he said his efforts are being sabotaged.
“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.
In an open letter to the community calling for collaboration, Waronker said actions he took to raise student performance, reduce violence, and expose corruption are being undone.
Master teachers, and the nonprofit agency Waronker founded and brought in to transform the district, were terminated. A bond he recommended to rebuild crumbling buildings was rejected, and special investigators looking into corruption were fired.
“He was bringing them in along with Harvard University and other organizations to try and help the Hempstead School District,” said Fred Brewington, an attorney for Waronker. “The pushback on this issue makes no political, makes no social, makes no educational, and makes no professional sense.”
The Hempstead School District has as much chaos at deeply divided school board meetings as in the high school hallways. Majority board members have questioned Waronker’s educational model from the start.
They now say his initiatives were not properly budgeted, and accuse Waronker of personally profiting – a charge he denies.
“I know for a fact the so-called majority of the board are for the children,” said Hempstead School Board Trustee Lamont Johnson. “We’re putting the children first. That’s our main objective.”
“They don’t want him there,” said Hempstead School Board Trustee Maribel Touré. “They are preventing him from doing his job to accuse him of failure.”
And now, there is yet another plan of action. A state monitor appointed earlier this year released recommendations on Monday, including training both the board and the superintendent on how to govern.
The report calls for regular forensic audits, and cites specific problems that have not been corrected in more than a decade. Action is required within a month.
The state monitor said, “We do not have a moment to waste.”
The district has a Feb. 2 deadline to show evidence that it is sticking to the state’s plan of action.H