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Hempstead school board sends charges to superintendent's lawyers

Hempstead Superintendent Shimon Waronker defends himself at a

Hempstead Superintendent Shimon Waronker defends himself at a special meeting on Jan 9, the day after the release of a special adviser's report that faults district's leadership and after the superintendent's "open letter" of appeal to the community. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

The Hempstead school board’s attorneys delivered documents Wednesday evening to Superintendent Shimon Waronker’s attorney, a step in the process required by the sidelined administrator’s contract as the panel seeks to dismiss him.

The five-member board voted unanimously Tuesday morning on charges against Waronker, who has been on paid administrative leave since Jan. 9. The board in executive session reviewed “documentary evidence gathered in the investigation of the matters” and “found substantial and credible evidence to support the charges and specifications,” according to the resolution read aloud in the brief public session.

Details of the charges have not been made public.

Waronker’s contract requires, among other stipulations, that he receive the board’s charges in writing within two days of the board’s vote, that he has the right to a hearing and that the hearing officer be mutually selected by him and the board. Under the pact, Waronker chooses whether the hearing is public or private.

Jonathan Scher, a partner in the Scher Law Firm in Carle Place, which is representing the district, said Wednesday evening that the documents were accepted by an attorney at the Hempstead law offices of Frederick K. Brewington on behalf of Waronker. He would not comment on the content of the charges or other material.

“We don’t want to compromise Mr. Waronker’s rights to decide whether or not this matter should be public or private, which is his election to make under his contract, Section 10D,” Scher said. “Of course, the district has taken every step possible to keep matters confidential, and it’s up to him to decide whether in the spirit of transparency he wants to make this matter public and share the charges with the media. We take no position with respect to that.”

Brewington, who represents Waronker, did not immediately return a request for comment. Late Wednesday afternoon, he told Newsday that the firm had not yet received the charges.

Waronker, who started work in the district on June 2, 2017, under a four-year contract paying $265,000 annually in base salary plus benefits, came to Hempstead with a reputation for turning around low-performing and violent schools in New York City.

He was placed on paid administrative leave after a change in the board majority, with the panel probing his actions in arranging a $450,000 contract between the district and the New American Initiative, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit consulting agency he founded. Regina Armstrong, a longtime administrator in the system, was appointed as acting superintendent.

Waronker has said he brought in the agency, with the support of the former board majority, to help the 8,000-plus student system and has noted that his contract bans his drawing compensation from the agency.

Waronker filed suit in federal court against the district on Jan. 19 regarding his placement on leave. It was unclear Wednesday how the board’s action toward his dismissal could affect the legal case.

With the charges having been served, both the board and Waronker have two days to create a list of potential hearing officers and an officer must be mutually selected within five days of Waronker’s receipt of the charges, according to the superintendent’s contract. In addition, there must be a minimum of 30 days between Waronker’s receipt of the charges and the start of a hearing.

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