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Wyandanch primary school wins removal from state’s ‘priority’ list

“All of us are elated,” district Superintendent Mary Jones said of the announcement about LaFrancis Hardiman Elementary School.

Wyandanch Superintendent Mary Jones, left, with Shamika Simpson,

Wyandanch Superintendent Mary Jones, left, with Shamika Simpson, principal of LaFrancis Hardiman Elementary School and Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School, on Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

LaFrancis Hardiman Elementary School in Wyandanch is among 27 schools across the state that have won removal from the state’s “priority” list because of rising student achievement, the state Education Department announced Friday.

The primary school’s improved status means it now is considered in good academic standing — at least until the next round of state evaluations — and no longer risks being placed under receivership of the district superintendent, with special oversight authority. The school first was posted on the priority list in February 2016.

“All of us are elated,” said Mary Jones, Wyandanch’s superintendent since 2014. “This demonstrates that our strategies for improvement are all working, and we will continue to do more of the same.”

Charlie Reed, president of Wyandanch’s school board, said he considered the latest sign of achievement “outstanding.”

Hardiman enrolls about 420 students in prekindergarten, kindergarten and first grade, according to the state’s most recent records, from the 2015-16 academic year. Those records indicate that 92 percent of the school’s students are economically disadvantaged and that 35 percent speak limited English.

Wyandanch’s own records show a larger enrollment of about 700, because the Hardiman School and another building, Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School, are jointly administered. Shamika Simpson, who serves as principal of both schools, joined Jones on Friday in marking Hardiman’s elevation.

To gain removal from priority status, schools had to show academic progress in both 2015-16 and 2016-17. A total of 174 schools statewide were designated as priority level in 2016-17.

Jones said the district focused over the past two years on providing professional training for teachers, with an eye toward more individualized instruction for students, depending upon their varying levels of abilities and needs. Trainers came from Western Suffolk BOCES, SUNY Old Westbury, Farmingdale State College and Molloy College, the superintendent added.

“Removal from Priority School status shows the hard work being done by students, teachers and administrators at these schools and I applaud them all,” Betty Rosa, chancellor of the state Board of Regents, said in a prepared statement.

Of the 27 schools statewide, one school each was removed from priority status in Albany, Buffalo and Wyandanch. The remaining 24 schools listed in improved status are in New York City.

The statewide school list included eight that already were in receivership — one in Albany and the other seven in New York City. Those schools will exit from receivership at the end of the 2017-18 academic year, at which time local superintendents for those schools no longer will have the special authority of receivers. Those powers include authority to revise the budgets and curricula of individual schools.

Three schools in Nassau and Suffolk counties remain under superintendents’ receivership: Milton L. Olive Middle School in Wyandanch, and Hempstead High School and Alverta B. Gray Schultz Middle School, both in the Hempstead district.

The two middle schools are classified as “struggling” and the high school is classified as “persistently struggling.”

On Oct. 31, the Education Department announced that both of those middle schools had shown satisfactory academic progress two years in a row. Hempstead High’s record was under review, the department said.

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