Hempstead High officials outline improvement plans
Hempstead High School educators outlined plans Friday to address the school's placement on the state low achievement list, including greater school security, increased outreach to parents and a stronger focus on individual student academics.
"We are turning Hempstead around," said Betty Cross, Board of Education president. "It is indeed a job that we know we have to do, and we will do it."
Hempstead's latest reported graduation rate of 38 percent, for 2011-12, was Long Island's lowest. The state Education Department recently placed Hempstead high on a "priority" list, meaning it officially ranks among the lowest 5 percent of schools statewide.
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Friday, members of the Hempstead Board of Education as well as school administrators held a news conference to discuss plans to turn the troubled 1,600-student school around.
Newly hired Executive Principal Reginald Stroughn said he plans to handle discipline, boost parental involvement and identify and intervene on behalf of seniors who are not on course to graduate.
Stroughn was hired by Cross and other members of a new school board majority last year. He was brought in as part of the board's plan to dissolve its three college preparatory academies and consolidate them along with the Senior Academy under the name Hempstead High School.
Each grade will have its own principal and guidance counselors, Stroughn said.
Other efforts include creating a night school for failing students and monitoring Regents exams performance to provide extra help. Cross said programs will be offered in math, science and reading with small groups of students.
Administrators plan to strengthen the dress code and crack down on lateness and absenteeism. The guidance department will produce bilingual newsletters to inform parents of exams. Cross said the school will match students with mentors.
In June, state officials had warned the high school that it could be placed on the "priority" short list if the district dissolved the separate academies within the building, which had been established three years ago in an attempt to improve student performance.
But Stroughn said Friday the structure did not work.
Friday, New York State Department of Education spokesman Jon Burman said the department has made a number of resources -- including grant opportunities, technical assistance and professional development -- available to the district to help raise the achievement level at the high school.
"The Board of Regents continues to advocate for legislation that would authorize the Education Department to intervene in chronically underperforming schools, like Hempstead High School," he said. "We will continue to work with the district to help ensure that Hempstead's students graduate high school ready for college and careers."