Court rules against 3 ex-Hempstead school district principals seeking reinstatement

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A Nassau County State Supreme Court justice has denied a motion by three fired Hempstead school district principals who had sued to be reinstated and given back pay and benefits.

The decision by Justice Norman Janowitz denied a motion by David Evans, of the Academy of Music & Art, Helisse Palmore, of Barack Obama Elementary School, and James Thomas, of the Academy of Business & Law, who were fired in April 2013.

Michael Starvaggi, the union lawyer who had represented the three in a previous legal action connected with the case, could not be reached. Hempstead lawyer Frederick Brewington, who said he now represents the three, said the school district was not off the hook.

"This does not mean that the school district is absolved of wrongdoing," he said. "We will respond both legally and publicly after further study of the court's decision."

The school district's attorney, however, said the case is finished. "This case is over, no matter what anybody says," said Jonathan Scher.

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The three principals, along with a fourth principal and a science director, were fired without explanation by the school board, which voted 3-2 to terminate them. The three involved in the court action were fired shortly before being eligible for tenure. All of the dismissed administrators were hired under former Superintendent Patricia Garcia, who resigned in 2012 after three years.

Janowitz had ruled earlier this year that the school district legally failed to evaluate the principals as required before termination, but he denied them everything else including reinstatement, back pay and benefits. He also ruled the case could go forward.

Thursday's decision was in response to another court action asking for reinstatement and benefits.

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Janowitz called that motion a re-argument of the principals' previous position. He noted that he had not earlier considered whether the terminations were justified, only that the board had failed to take into account all relevant factors before the firings.

"That failure apparently has been rectified in proceedings instituted subsequent to my remand [decision]," he said.

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