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Long IslandNassau

Hempstead schools yet to select enrollment troubleshooters

(L-R) Hempstead School District Trustee JoAnn Simmons, President

(L-R) Hempstead School District Trustee JoAnn Simmons, President Lamont Johnson and Clerk Patricia Wright, listen during a school board meeting, Wednesday evening, April 15, 2015. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Hempstead school officials are getting close to selecting an ombudsman to work on removing enrollment barriers that affect immigrant children, as well as an independent monitor to review the district's progress, but the board missed initial deadlines to make those selections.

Under a settlement with state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman's office -- which investigated allegations that the district turned away immigrant children -- the school board was to retain an independent monitor by April 1 and an enrollment ombudsman by April 15.

Though the school board met Wednesday night, those appointments were not on the agenda. School officials expect to schedule that discussion for Tuesday.

"We are working with the attorney general in regards to registration," school board president Lamont Johnson said. "The superintendent has recommendations" from Schneiderman's office "and, you know, we're corresponding with each other to come up with the best person."

Johnson said more than 40 candidates applied and the list had been narrowed, but he couldn't disclose other details.

The Hempstead school board voted March 2, after months of controversy over the district's treatment of immigrant children, to approve enrollment monitoring until June 2018.

Last fall, advocates and parents said dozens of children -- many of them immigrant teenagers who had recently entered the United States illegally as part of an influx of unaccompanied minors -- were turned away when they sought to enroll at Hempstead High School.

The district came under scrutiny from the state Education Department and the attorney general, leading to the commitment to take corrective steps.

Schneiderman spokeswoman Liz DeBold said the district has been granted "modest extensions" to comply with requirements. She said the district "is in general compliance with the timelines and requirements."

Jason Starr, Nassau County's chapter director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said he is disappointed with the delays but hopes the process leads to solid candidates.

He'd especially like to see a bilingual appointee who could communicate with the affected community as ombudsman."We want to see someone who, first and foremost, is highly experienced in this area, dealing with pupil personnel, including registration and enrollment," Starr said, "and someone who's sensitive to the needs of all of the members of the Hempstead community."


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