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Principal Reginald Stroughn: More Hempstead High seniors eligible to graduate

Hempstead High School principal Reginald Stroughn outside the

Hempstead High School principal Reginald Stroughn outside the Hempstead High School on June 3, 2014. Credit: Barry Sloan

Dozens more Hempstead High School seniors are expected to be eligible to graduate Sunday, after the school's principal regained authority to check their academic records and certify their right to diplomas.

Executive Principal Reginald Stroughn said Tuesday he expects 210 or more students to get diplomas. That is about 80 additional 12th-graders than he earlier said he believed would pass muster.

The expanded list, Stroughn added, should raise Hempstead's graduation rate for those getting diplomas on time after four years of school to about 50 percent, well above the 35.5 percent recorded for the Class of 2013.

The state has placed Hempstead High School on its list of lowest academic performers because of graduation numbers ranked at or near the bottom among Long Island's public school districts for the past several years.

"I think we would have done better if I'd handled this the whole year," said Stroughn, 62, who was stripped of his control of student academic records over the winter. "Right now, we're working to find out just how many seniors are going to graduate. I'm hoping for a big jump -- something to build on."

Stroughn revealed earlier this month that the district's superintendent, Susan Johnson, had taken control of grading and graduation records. He said the management shake-up, which Johnson confirmed, left him unable to vouch for seniors' grades or eligibility to graduate.

District officials said the move excluding Stroughn from managing student grades occurred amid problems with a new computerized system that left blanks in many report cards.

The superintendent could not be reached Tuesday for comment.

A district spokesman, Nathan Jackson, confirmed that Hempstead's school board voted unanimously Monday to restore the principal's authority.

"It just makes sense that the man who is on the scene every day, hands-on, in the hallways, should have a chance to do what's right for the students," Jackson said.

Stroughn acknowledged he faces a rush job this week.

On Monday, he and two assistants began sorting students' files, focusing on about 100 whose diplomas were in question because of missing marks on report cards or other problems. Tuesday morning, the principal added, he met with the high school's 130 teachers, asking them to provide missing grades whenever possible.

The greatest need, Stroughn said, is to complete the list of graduates before Friday's rehearsal for commencement.

"I'm hoping we can complete this by Thursday afternoon, so we can make phone calls to those not eligible to march," he said.

Stroughn, who took the executive principal's job in July, is due to step down at the end of this month. He previously served as Hempstead High's principal from 2003 to 2009.

Johnson will remain in her job, Jackson said.

Pressure on Hempstead from the state Department of Education is mounting as well.

Last month, the department's Office of Audit Services reported that the district during the 2012-13 school year routinely and improperly boosted thousands of students' grades from failing to passing.

Sharon Cates-Williams, a deputy commissioner, confirmed Tuesday that agency examiners plan a follow-up audit, but said she could not give a date.

Last week, monitors from the department's Test Security Unit traveled to Hempstead to check on the high school's administration of state Regents exams. Such monitoring typically includes inspections of office safes to make sure exams are kept secure, as well as classroom visits to see that school staffers conduct tests properly.

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