The Governor and/or the Commissioner MUST Takeover the Hempstead School Board, Root Out the Corruption and Assure a “Sound, Basic Education” for the Children of Hempstead

Corruption in the Hempstead School District is endemic.

Hempstead is a primarily Afro-American suburban community on Long Island surrounded by the most affluent school districts in the nation. For decades the Hempstead School Board and their allies have used the school district budget as a piggybank, stealing millions, probably tens of millions from the children of Hempstead.

What is so tragic is the theft is not a secret, the New York State Education Department and a list of commissioners have maintained they do not have the authority to remove the school board.

Carolyn Gusoff, a CBS investigator reporter spent a year taking a deep dive into the cesspool of corruption and has produced a devastating report.

In 2002 the State Education Department (SED) removed the school board in the Roosevelt School District , legislation authorized the removal of the Roosevelt Board, the SED assigned trustees and a superintendent, and, for ten years ran the school district, the academic outcomes continued to be poor. Does the Roosevelt takeover failure influence the reticence to intervene now?

The CBS report is scathing and recounts efforts to remedy decades of plunder. The school district population has been changing with larger numbers of Hispanic residents moving into the district.

The hotly contested school board election in 2017 resulted in a new reform-minded school board. The school hired Simon Waronker, a former New York City principal originally hired by the Bloomberg/Klein administration, an orthodox Jew, born in Peru; Waronker had never served as a superintendent.

He removed the high school principal, high school graduation data had been forged, and significant numbers of students graduated without meeting graduation requirements, State Ed reduced the graduation rate to 37%, one of the lowest in the nation.

An auditing firm was hired to conduct a forensic audit – a preliminary report found over 100 employees with no clear duties and scores of vendors who were not delivering contracted services.

The district records, haphazardly stored in cardboard boxes in a closed school building mysteriously were destroyed in a fire.

The reform-minded school board was viciously attacked, a public relation firm was hired to attack the incumbents, poorly attended school board meetings were disrupted and the school board majority was threatened. The attacks on the school board were orchestrated by a convicted felon.

The newly hired superintendent made ill-advised  policy decisions and the despoilers were reelected in the 2018 school board elections – only 850 voters in a school district of 8,000 students. The despoilers suspended the superintendent, rehired the fired high school principal with full back pay and abandoned the audit.

One of the loudest school board members has been indicted for a number of crimes and remains on the board.

The commissioner hired a distinguished educator, as an advisor, with no power or authority, who felt it would take 5 – 10 years to turn around the district.

Can anyone approve waiting for five to ten years to provide a “sound, basic education?”

In July the Long Island Press speculated on whether the State Education Department will move to take over the district.

 Despite persistent struggles with declining graduation rates, violence, alleged corruption, and overall school board turmoil, the verdict is still out on whether the New York State Education Department (NYSED) will step in and appoint an outside “receiver” or manager to take operational control of the district.

A letter from the NYSED’s Office of Accountability late last month revealed more disturbing details about the district’s problems with accurately reporting data, citing numerous instances of errors and discrepancies. Officially, the department said the situation in the Hempstead District was still under review.

However, sources within the department say the decision about a takeover may be made this fall, after the district submits data from the 2017-2018 school year. Previous data examined was from the 2016- 2017 school year.

A spokesperson for the department also noted that special legislation would have to be passed before any takeover could occur, which means it would have to wait until the next legislative session starts in 2019. The only time New York has taken control of a school district was in the 2002 takeover of the Roosevelt School District.

Why aren’t the findings of the preliminary audit report, the faking of graduation data, the disruptions of school board meetings, the arrest and indictment of a school board member sufficient for State Education to remove the board?

The Commissioner did sustain the removal of a member of the Buffalo School Board on far flimsier allegations.

The Hempstead State legislator, Earlene Hooper has been silent for years, one hopes she is not party to the thefts of dollars and educational opportunity.

To wait for the next legislative session is criminal.

Back in my union representative days I worked for Al Shanker, at one meeting someone said, “The lawyers say we can’t do (whatever it was …)” Shanker replied, rather vehemently, “We’re the elected leaders, we don’t ask lawyers whether we can do something, we tell them what we want to do and tell them to figure out how to do it.”  The naysayer responded, “What if the lawyers can’t figure it out,” Shanker: “We find lawyers who can.”

I suggest:

The Governor, by executive order, suspend the Hempstead School Board and ask the Attorney General, the Comptroller, and State Education Department to conduct a forensic audit based upon the incomplete audit conducted by an external auditor as well as investigate other violations of statutes.

 The Commissioner appoint a designee who shall have full authority to control all educational, budget and personnel matters

The Governor and the Commissioner shall identify funding and construct a plan to remedy physical facility inadequacies.

The Commissioner identify organizations with expertise in New Language Acquisition and Turnaround strategies and contract with the organizations to construct a district plan in consultation with the Commissioner designee

 State Police  assure that school board meetings are orderly, provide a safe environment in the area surrounding Hempstead schools and district-hired School Safety Officers  assure a safe environment within school buildings and work collaboratively with State Police

 The Attorney General and the Comptroller shall have full subpoena authority

  The Governor shall introduce legislation to grant the Commissioner full authority to suspend or permanently remove school boards based on conditions defined in the new law.

The Collective Bargaining Agent (“Unions”) shall particulate fully in the process described supra.

Eight thousand students are being deprived of an adequate education; millions of dollars have been stolen for years while the people in power have found reasons not to intervene.

If Hempstead was a white middle class district would we stand by and allow corruption to exist?

One response to “The Governor and/or the Commissioner MUST Takeover the Hempstead School Board, Root Out the Corruption and Assure a “Sound, Basic Education” for the Children of Hempstead

  1. They’ve known about Hempstead for years. Its corruption is a part of the Nassau Cty DNA.

    Like

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