The Hempstead School Board Wednesday night unanimously accepted the recommendations of a state-appointed consultant who had blamed entrenched divisions among district leaders for falling academic performance and increasing safety concerns in the 8,000-student system.
The board also voted to fire Deputy Superintendent of Schools Varleton McDonald and Hempstead High School Principal Kenneth Klein after coming out of a three-hour executive session.
The trustees immediately approved a resolution to rehire Klein as an administrator on special assignment at a salary of $120,000 annually and named Stephen Strachan, the high school’s principal until he was fired last year, as Klein’s replacement.
Klein and McDonald were hired in 2017 by Superintendent Shimon Waronker, who was placed on leave last week and barred from district property. Regina Armstrong, an associate superintendent and a 28-year educator in the district, is serving as acting superintendent.
Before entering executive session Wednesday night at Hempstead High School, all five board members voted in favor of a number of items on the consent calendar including to agree with the findings of a 56-page report released earlier this month by consultant Jack Bierwirth. The board also directed the superintendent of the district to devise a plan for implementation of Bierwirth’s findings.
Bierwirth, a former Herricks school superintendent, was tapped as Distinguished Educator by State Commissioner of Education MaryEllen Elia last year and has been advising Hempstead since he started in October.
Bierwirth’s observations appeared on the board meeting agenda as a hand carry item, directingArmstrong to communicate the school board’s acceptance of the recommendations to him and Elia. The board ordered Armstrong to prepare a plan to put the recommendations into action by the school board’s work session on Feb. 1.
The plan is to be delivered to Elia by Feb 2. It includes advice on 10 main areas of concern: governance, budget and fiscal operations, school safety, facilities management, high school instruction, pre-K instruction, special education, English language learners, nutrition and food and information technology infrastructure.
Bierwirth identified governance of the district as the chief impediment to its success.
The adoption comes as Hempstead continues its operations after placing its superintendent on administrative leave.
By a 3-2 vote last week, board members placed Waronker on leave and installed Armstrong as acting superintendent.
Armstrong announced to about 60 members of the public present at the meeting Wednesday night the district’s plans to increase the number of security officers on patrol during certain hours, and to meet with state police on boosting security on school grounds.
Bierwirth’s report noted that as many as 50 fights had occurred in Hempstead High School since September.
Armstrong also said the district was assessing how to improve facilities and buildings in disrepair and that school officials were scheduled to meet with architects this week.
The board fired Klein and McDonald on 3-2 votes. Trustees David Gates, LaMont Johnson and Randy Stith voted to fire the administrators. Trustees Gwendolyn Jackson and Maribel Touré voted no.
After Strachan was fired, Waronker replaced him with Klein. Waronker hired McDonald, his former supervisor when they both worked for the New York City Department of Education, in November.
With Scott Eidler