Anxious Hempstead school authorities have called a 1 p.m. news conference Tuesday to denounce proposed legislation that would move toward establishing a state-appointed board to monitor and even direct much of the district's financial affairs.
The legislation, introduced over the weekend by State Sen. Kevin Thomas (D-Levittown) and Assemb. Taylor Raynor (D-Hempstead), would empower state education and finance officials to appoint a three-member monitoring board.
The new board would monitor the 6,600-student district's academic and financial planning, starting immediately after the law's enactment and ending June 30, 2024. But the statute would move beyond simple oversight — for example, by authorizing monitors to approve or disapprove appointment of future district superintendents, and approve or disapprove all district expenses, except those covered by union contracts.
Since October 2017, Hempstead has been under the watch of Jack Bierwirth, a former superintendent with broad experience in school administration and academic improvement, who serves the district as a state-appointed "distinguished educator."
Such appointees, under a 2007 state law, hold authority to review district operations, help develop improvement plans and promote student performance, among other actions. A member of Thomas' staff said the new monitoring board would have "more power."
Bierwirth, in a series of quarterly reports, has noted that Hempstead has made progress in some areas, such as winning voter approval of a bond issue meant to build new classrooms and relieve crowding. But he has also criticized local school board members for continuous internal bickering that threatens to limit progress.
District officials, on the other hand, have denounced the new proposed legislation as a sudden, unwarranted and politically motivated intrusion on local control. Officials have warned that the State Legislature, which is due to adjourn this week, could slip the bill through in the last hours of its session.
"It's absolutely disgraceful," said Nicole Epstein, a spokeswoman for the board. "They're trying to pull a quick one over the eyes of the community."
The 1 p.m. news conference will be held at the district superintendent’s office at 185 Peninsula Blvd. in Hempstead.