Community organizations in Hempstead on Thursday demanded transparency from the school board and superintendent as improvement plans are about to be rolled out for two district schools the state Education Department placed under receivership.
Local leaders from New York Communities for Change and The Corridor Counts, at a news conference outside the district's Peninsula Boulevard office, called for Superintendent Susan Johnson to include their representatives on community engagement teams that such schools must form as part of plans to improve student performance.
"We knew the importance of the community engagement team since April," when the state's receivership law was passed, said Blanca Villanueva, a Long Island education organizer with Alliance for Quality Education. "All the conferences that we've been to in Albany . . . have all stated the importance of the community and the parents' involvement in turning schools around. Without that, we can't make a significant change."See alsoWatch a video reportSee alsoRead the auditMore coverageOpinion and analysis: Hempstead School District
The engagement teams are expected to serve as steering committees to help guide schools out of receivership.
Five schools on Long Island were among 144 statewide that the state last month placed under receivership, and Hempstead was the only district on the Island with two schools on the list. Middle schools in the Central Islip, Roosevelt and Wyandanch districts also were named by the state.
Under the law, Hempstead High School, deemed "persistently struggling," has one year to show improvement under local supervision, while Alverta B. Gray Schultz Middle School, classified as "struggling," has two years to show progress. If the schools do not show demonstrable improvement within those respective time periods, an outside manager may be called in.
"We're demanding that Superintendent Susan Johnson have representatives from these organizations -- from our community -- on the community engagement team," said Melissa Figueroa, who represented the Hempstead Hispanic Civic Association at the news conference.
District spokesman Michael Fricchione said paperwork on the team, including its roster, was submitted Wednesday to the Education Department in accordance with state law. He did not have a list of team members, but said more can be added later.
None of the district's five board members returned calls seeking comment.
The district is scheduled to hold public hearings Saturday to give residents information about the receivership process. The hearing about the high school is scheduled at 9:30 a.m. in the high school auditorium, and the hearing on the middle school is at 11 a.m. in that school's "band box" room.