Hempstead school district interim Superintendent Fadhilika Atiba-Weza will receive a $50,000 raise after the state Education Department said it would not approve his request to simultaneously receive pension payments and a $215,000 annual salary.
The school board approved Atiba-Weza’s new, $265,000 salary in a 5-0 vote held at 1:30 a.m. Friday. The board deliberated on the matter during a five-hour executive session at Hempstead High School.
“It’s a nice gesture,” board president Maribel Touré said after the vote. “The children come first for him.”
“He’s been up for everything,” Touré added. “He’s up to the task.”
Touré and Atiba-Weza, 62, confirmed that he would forgo his retirement payouts while he works for the district. Atiba-Weza is eligible for a maximum monthly payment of $9,804.55, according to a spokesman for the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System.
Pension-earners under 65 in New York need a state waiver to receive more than $30,000 in annual salary. The waiver, known as a 211 waiver, is required under a state law designed to prevent double-dipping.
Atiba-Weza was hired June 29 on a one-year contract, replacing Susan Johnson.
In a brief interview after the meeting, he said, “It is what it is” and declined to comment further.
He is a former superintendent of school systems in Roosevelt and Central Islip, and in upstate Troy. Atiba-Weza worked for 31 years as an educator and retired in 2011, according to the state Teachers’ Retirement System.
The change in salary is effective immediately, and the interim superintendent’s biweekly payments will be adjusted to ensure that his total compensation for the 2016-17 school year is $265,000, according to district clerk Patricia Wright, who read the law into the record.
The trustees’ decision capped a frantic week for the district.
On Oct. 14, Ann Jasinski, an assistant director of the Education Department’s Office of Teaching Initiatives, informed Nassau BOCES and the district that Atiba-Weza’s waiver request would not be approved.
Jasinski also criticized the district’s search for a temporary schools chief. It “did not undertake a good-faith search for the position of ‘Interim’ Superintendent of Schools,” she wrote in the letter.
Earlier in the week, Touré said she disagreed with the state letter and praised Atiba-Weza’s efforts.
“Not only has he been working nonstop, but with his strong experience as a superintendent he has been able to address the numerous academic and financial challenges that we are currently experiencing,” Touré, who became the board’s president in July, wrote in a statement issued Monday. “The denial of this request will be a great setback that will impose a tremendous burden on our school district and the children that we serve.”
Two district schools — Hempstead High and Alverta B. Gray Schultz Middle School — were placed in the state’s receivership program in July 2015.
Under the new law, superintendents have expanded powers to enact reforms, including the authority to hire and fire employees and lengthen the school day or year. If the schools do not meet academic benchmarks by certain deadlines, the state can appoint independent managers to oversee them, outside of the superintendent’s authority.