Two struggling public schools in Hempstead and one in Wyandanch made "demonstrable improvement" in their academic performance in the 2017-18 academic year, avoiding the risk of being placed under outside management, the state Education Department announced Wednesday.
Hempstead High School and Alverta B. Gray Schultz Middle School, both in Hempstead, and Milton L. Olive Middle School in Wyandanch — among the 49 schools statewide classified as struggling or persistently struggling — now are identified as making adequate progress.
The schools were placed under stricter-than-usual control of local superintendents and designated as being in "receivership" starting in July 2015 under a new state law. The Education Department monitors their improvement, and the schools can be put under an outside manager if expectations are not met.
The announcement came as a morale boost for both Hempstead and Wyandanch, which are the two school systems on Long Island with the least-taxable wealth in terms of property values and family incomes.
James Crawford, president of the Wyandanch school board, said he and other district leaders are "very excited" about the announcement, adding, "We knew that our teachers and administrators were doing good work and that our students were bright, and we just want to see the progress continue."
Superintendent Mary Jones added that she expects the state soon to announce additional academic improvements that will underscore the district's motto: "We are rising."
The Wyandanch system recently notified residents that it was running a $3.3 million budget deficit, and could be forced to respond by raising taxes, cutting services, or both. Local administrators had pressed for release of the state's findings on the Olive school, as evidence of local gains.
"Yes, that does give me some hope that things will improve," said Denise Edwards, a 19-year resident and taxpayer in the Wyandanch district.
Edwards added, however, that her hopes were based on the assumption "that the state stays involved and this doesn't just get swept under the rug."
On Tuesday, state education authorities acknowledged Wyandanch's "fiscal challenges" and said they had asked regional Western Suffolk BOCES staffers to offer assistance.
In Hempstead, Superintendent Regina Armstrong also welcomed the state's announcement, while pointing to a two-day training session her district has scheduled for teachers Thursday and Friday as evidence of its determination to continue recent upgrades.
"We do recognize that we have a lot of work to do to make sure we make progress in graduating more students and preparing students for college and careers," Armstrong said.
Under state and federal law, school improvement is measured in a variety of ways, including growth in scores on state tests, reductions in achievement gaps between specific groups of students, increased graduation rates and better student class attendance.
The announcement Wednesday dealt with the status of 52 schools statewide that are under superintendents' receivership due to poor performance in the past.
State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said that while 49 of those schools showed demonstrable progress, "We must acknowledge that in many of these schools, levels of performance remain low and much more intensive efforts must be undertaken to ensure that more students reach higher levels of achievement."
Early next year, the state is scheduled to announce which struggling schools statewide have made enough progress to be restored to good academic standing. The state also will change its nomenclature, identifying low-achieving schools as requiring Comprehensive Support and Improvement.