The Hempstead school board voted to use grant funds to bring outside groups to manage a “transformation plan” for its persistently struggling high school at a Thursday night board meeting.
The 4-0 vote came after some questions from board member Maribel Touré on why the funds should be used “to contract these services” with outsiders.
But administrators said that $2 million in grants were slated to bring outside experts with input from the New York State Education Department.
“We have been in the transformation process for the last three years,” Hempstead High School Principal Stephen Strachan told the board. “One of the components of these grants require that we partner with educational experts” to monitor and report on the school’s progress.
Proposals to put in place improvement plans were listed as contracts for consulting services on the Hempstead school board agenda.
They included a contract with the Center for Secondary School Design to evaluate the high school’s performance; a partnership agreement with Johns Hopkins University to put in place a “transformation model” at the high school; and a contract with Internationals Network for Public Schools to offer consultation and professional development for the instruction of students learning English at the high school.
The Internationals Network is a nonprofit based in Manhattan that “designs high schools and prepares educators to provide quality education for recently arrived immigrant English language learners,” according to its website. No detailed information was immediately available on the Center for Secondary School Design.
Hempstead school officials had been discussing an intervention of sorts to improve their high school’s academic performance as early as the spring, when they met with representatives from Johns Hopkins School of Education, of Baltimore, to discuss instructional reforms.
The plan from Johns Hopkins that was presented at the time involved breaking up the student population of Hempstead High School into “small learning communities” of 75 to 105 students who would take classes under “teacher teams.”
A Johns Hopkins representative called it a “whole-school transformation” plan that would allow educators to give students more individualized attention and better address attendance and behavior problems, starting with implementation at the ninth grade in the upcoming school year.
Since then, Hempstead High School was labeled “persistently struggling” and placed under receivership by the state, a designation for schools that have not met state and federal academic benchmarks for at least 10 years. The district’s Alverta B. Gray Schultz Middle School is labeled as “struggling” for similarly poor results for three consecutive years.
The clock is ticking on the district, because schools that don’t improve under the state’s receivership law — approved in April — would eventually be removed from local superintendents’ control to be taken over by managers approved by school boards.
Associate Superintendent James Clark said the administration is optimistic that these reforms will improve the school.
“The question is ‘Will we have enough time to show those demonstrable improvements, as the state calls it, to make a difference?’ ” said Clark. “But we have a plan. The ship is turning around and we hope to go straight forward.”
The district board also voted to request for the office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to oversee their election in May, after two previous elections whose results were disputed.
“We don’t want to go over the same things we have over the last couple of years,” said LaMont Johnson, board president. “We’re being proactive.”