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Hempstead school chief to sign 3-year contract

Hempstead School Board Members Shelley Brazley, left, Waylyn

Hempstead School Board Members Shelley Brazley, left, Waylyn Hobbs, center, and Joanne Simmons, right, applaud as the holds the first ever "State of the School District" address at Hempstead High School in Hempstead. (April 6, 2013) Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

Hempstead Superintendent Susan Johnson said Saturday that she plans to come out of retirement and accept a three-year contract to run the school system in a deal district leaders are expected to approve Monday.

Last month, the state Education Department denied a request for a waiver that would have allowed Johnson, 60, to serve in the job and make more than $30,000 on top of her pension because she is younger than 65. But Johnson would not need state approval if she waives her $100,000-plus state pension.

"The board's first concern is to give the superintendent a contract," board president Betty Cross said at the first State of the School District address at the high school Saturday.

Johnson's initial agreement with the district in December called for her to make $210,000 through June 30. Johnson returned to the position she held twice previously after former Superintendent Patricia Garcia abruptly resigned in November.

Johnson will need to repay any pension amounts if she earned more than $30,000 this year while she was getting her pension, state comptroller spokesman Eric Sumberg has said.

Johnson, a Hempstead graduate, said in an interview that she's not going to stop taking her pension without a contract.

"I do have the credentials to be in this position," she said.

The board plans to meet in the superintendent's office at 6 p.m. Monday to vote on Johnson's contract.

On Saturday, Johnson outlined her plans for the district, including demolishing and replacing the vacant Rhodes Elementary School on Washington Street in order to halt the district's dependency on portable classrooms.

A new school building would cost about $45 million, covered mostly with state aid, but the district would be responsible for $14 million, she said.

Johnson also talked about appointing an executive principal to the high school, hiring additional staff, beefing up technology and working with local universities to create special programs.

"The district is returning to the basics," she said. "It's never been about I."

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