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Hempstead school board extends embattled school chief's leave again

Shimon Waronker, who began work in May 2017, was placed on administrative leave on Jan. 9.

Hempstead schools Superintendent Shimon Waronker is shown at

Hempstead schools Superintendent Shimon Waronker is shown at a special school board meeting on Jan. 9, 2018, when the school board voted 3-2 to place him on paid administrative leave. Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

The Hempstead school board voted unanimously early Friday morning to extend district superintendent Shimon Waronker's paid administrative leave through Aug. 31.

The embattled superintendent’s leave was set to end July 31. The board has extended his leave, which began in January, several times to allow more time for a district investigation into allegations of mismanagement under his administration and to assess evidence, according to previous resolutions.

The state Education Department did not return a request for comment regarding the extension.

Waronker began work as the district's schools chief in May 2017 at an annual base salary of $265,000, and his contract runs through June 30, 2021. He was placed on administrative leave on Jan. 9 after a shift in the board’s balance of power. Longtime district administrator Regina Armstrong is serving as acting superintendent.

According to court documents filed in a federal suit brought by Waronker challenging his removal, the board is probing seven different areas of his administration. One investigation is looking into a $450,000 contract Waronker helped arrange between the district and the New American Initiative, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit consulting agency founded by Waronker, according to court documents.

Waronker has said the agency was brought in to help the struggling district and that his contract bans his drawing compensation from the nonprofit.

Waronker remained a flash point for the divided board through July 1, when the board’s newest members, Patricia Spleen and Carmen Ayala, were seated. The women, elected in May, replaced board President Maribel Touré and Vice President Gwendolyn Jackson, and pledged to bring unity to the board.

Waronker’s contract is a remnant from the period when Touré and Jackson were in the board majority.

“This is now over a half-year of suspending this educator without charges or a hearing. This type of treatment sets a poor example for the community and the children in the District,” said Hempstead-based attorney Frederick K. Brewington, who is representing Waronker. “Dr. Waronker’s course, which he laid out for the District to follow, was solid both educationally and administratively. Instead of allowing him to lead, the Board has taken bits and pieces of his hard work and failed to give him credit. It is an unfortunate course that has been chosen by the Board.”      

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