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Hempstead school board approves layoffs of 60 teachers and staff

Hempstead Superintendent Susan Johnson responds to concerns during

Hempstead Superintendent Susan Johnson responds to concerns during a Hempstead school board meeting Thursday evening, June 18, 2015. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

The Hempstead school board voted 3-2 Thursday night to lay off 60 employees, including 31 teachers.

The list also included administrators, two psychologists and 15 teacher's aides. Also let go were an assistant supervisor for transportation, a secondary school assistant principal, two speech teachers, three music teachers, three English as a second language teachers and five elementary school teachers.

Betsy Leibu, the newly elected head of the district's teachers union, said the move was a disappointment but she was hopeful that most of the employees would return before the start of the next school year.

"In the past, a majority have been called back," she said.

School officials spent more than an hour Thursday night debating the layoffs, which administrators attributed to budgetary constraints. During a meeting in May, Superintendent Susan Johnson warned that the district could cut up to 100 positions to balance its budget. Ten days later, voters approved a school budget for the 2015-16 year of nearly $190 million, a 2.69 percent increase over the year before.

Board president Lamont Johnson, vice president Joann Simmons and secretary Ricky Cooke Sr., voted for the cuts while trustees Shelley Brazley and Maribel Touré opposed the proposal.

Trustees chided Superintendent Susan Johnson throughout the meeting for not providing critical information they needed to make decisions, including a written plan detailing how the district would move forward after layoffs. Johnson said she has provided all of the relevant information.

Brazley said some were laid off unfairly based on "retaliation, fear and intimidation."

Lamont Johnson disagreed.

"There is no cloud of intimidation," he said. "It's as fair as it's ever been right now."

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