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Long IslandEducation

Hempstead school board fires two, hires back HS principal

The personnel changes continue the panel’s recent actions in dismissing hires of Shimon Waronker, superintendent placed on administrative leave.

Varleton McDonald, former deputy superintendent of the Hempstead

Varleton McDonald, former deputy superintendent of the Hempstead school district, at a school board meeting on Nov. 29, 2017. Photo Credit: Daniel Goodrich

The Hempstead school board, in a flurry of personnel changes, has fired Deputy Superintendent Varleton McDonald and Hempstead High School Principal Kenneth Klein and rehired Stephen Strachan, the former high school principal who was let go last year.

The panel also acted to immediately rehire Klein as an administrator on special assignment, at an annual salary of $120,000.

While the resolution that the board acted upon did not specify Klein’s duties, board president Maribel Touré said Thursday in a phone interview that it would focus on evaluations.

Strachan, who again will be the principal of Hempstead High School, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The board voted to offer him his old post, provide back pay from Nov. 1 through Wednesday and to offer him tenure. It was unclear what he is being paid; the most recent public records available showed his compensation in 2017 as $210,707.

The five-member board, which began its meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, voted on the personnel changes after midnight, following about three hours in executive session.

The votes were largely on factional lines, with trustees David Gates, LaMont Johnson and Randy Stith backing the dismissals while Touré and Gwendolyn Jackson, the panel’s vice president, voted against them.

The string of personnel moves was a continuation of recent actions reversing hires made by Shimon Waronker, the district’s superintendent whom the board’s three-member majority voted Jan. 9 to place on administrative leave.

Waronker had been hired in May when the board had a different balance of power. At that time, Touré, Jackson and then-trustee Melissa Figueroa usually voted together as the majority, with Gates and Johnson in the minority.

Waronker, who started as the district’s schools chief in early June with a $265,000 annual base salary, is being paid while on leave for at least 60 days. He has been barred from school grounds.

Regina Armstrong, a longtime district administrator who was named acting superintendent last week, said Thursday that she had not yet had time to speak with Klein about his role.

“There are areas in the district that we need assistance in,” she said.

Strachan was denied tenure last year by Waronker and his contract was not renewed. Strachan filed a notice of claim contesting his dismissal against the district in August, according to District Clerk Patricia Wright.

The board’s resolution approving his rehiring said the resumption of his employment is dependent upon his dropping of that claim, Wright said.

Neither Klein nor McDonald could be reached for comment Thursday.

Waronker, McDonald and Klein all previously worked in the New York City school system.

McDonald, who began work in the district in early November with a $180,000 annual base salary, once was Waronker’s supervisor when the two worked for the city’s Department of Education.

Klein, whom Waronker hired to replace Strachan, also had worked in the New York City schools system as a teacher and administrator, as well as serving as an assistant principal in the North Babylon school system.

Klein was injured Jan. 12 at Hempstead High School while breaking up a fight among students, a skirmish that led to the arrests of two students, village police said. He was taken to a hospital with bruises to his midsection, Det. Sgt. Derek Warner said.

The school board, before entering executive session Wednesday night, voted to agree with the findings and recommendations in a 56-page report by Jack Bierwirth, a state-appointed adviser given a broad mandate to examine the troubled system’s operations. The report was released Jan. 8.

The report by Bierwirth, a former Herricks school superintendent, addressed 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.

The board ordered Armstrong to prepare a plan to put the recommendations into action by the school board’s next meeting, a work session on Feb. 1. That action plan is scheduled to be delivered to state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia by Feb. 2.

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