HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Major legislation is pending in Albany for a first-of-its-kind state intervention in the Hempstead School District.
For years, CBS2 has covered a system plagued by infighting, low academic scores and patronage. Now, there’s a proposal for drastic change, but also staunch opposition.
It’s not a state take-over, but close to it, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reports.
Identical bills in the Senate and Assembly propose immediate and unprecedented intervention in the struggling school district.
“We need to do something drastic,” Assemblywoman Taylor Raynor said.
Raynor says the bill she sponsored with Sen. Kevin Thomas is long overdue.
“Our kids deserve excellence. I am done with our school district being a piggy bank for a lot of people,” she said. “We sat here for decades. It’s time to do something, and on my watch, it will be done.”
But the bill has received a scathing reaction from the elected Hempstead board of education.
“The fight is on,” David Gates, Hempstead board of education trustee, said.
Web Extra: Hempstead School Officials Respond To Proposal For State-Appointed Monitoring Board —
Hempstead schools for years graduated fewer than half of its seniors. Now, leaders claim the graduation rate will rise this year to 60% under an already-in-place state watchdog.
“Things are getting much better, and this is not the time for the state to come in and pretend they are helping the district,” Lamont Johnson, Hempstead school board president, said.
“There is real progress. There is real momentum,” Carmen Ayala, Hempstead school board vice president, said. “We have to say no.”
Critics call their progress too little too late.
The bill appoints a panel of three monitors paid for by New York state.
It requires the district to adopt a conflict-of-interest policy and comply with annual state audits.
The panel would have veto power over expenditures and superintendent selection and conflicts.
This in a bitterly divided district that last year charged its superintendent with wrongdoing, then, days ago, terminated Shimon Waronker on a technicality; he never took an oath of office.
Some in Hempstead are crying out for state intervention.
“I haven’t seen the right direction that they’re claiming they’ve been moving in,” resident Dennis Jones said.
“It’s been overdue, long needed,” another resident said.
“It is time for them to go. We need a new intervention. We need this generation of corruption to be gone,” resident Mary Crosson said.
Lawmakers acted after the state monitor recently reported “great and growing concerns” about local governance.
“We are doing this for the children of Hempstead. They have suffered enough for decades with a school district and a school board that’s not there to look out for the children, but for their own selfish needs,” Thomas said.
School board and community leaders plan to head to Albany to lobby against the legislation. Raynor says she wishes there was as much enthusiasm in educating the students.
A vote is expected Tuesday or Wednesday.
The governor’s office says it will review the legislation.