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Hempstead school board selects Roosevelt principal to lead its high school

Hempstead superintendent Susan Johnson, right, with clerk Patricia

Hempstead superintendent Susan Johnson, right, with clerk Patricia Wright, left, addresses concerns during a school board special meeting at the Hempstead High School on Wednesday evening, Sept. 24, 2014. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

The Hempstead school board Wednesday night picked Roosevelt High School principal Stephen Strachan to lead its own secondary campus, though he would not comment on his selection.

Strachan is expected to join Hempstead High School Nov. 3 to fill the post vacated by Reginald Stroughn in July.

Strachan has 11 years of administrative experience, including four years at his current school. His prorated salary will be $171,803.

District officials say they're thrilled to have him and he'll bring much-needed continuity to the school.

Hempstead Superintendent Susan Johnson said Strachan is familiar with developing a master schedule, is trained on the Common Core educational standards and is comfortable evaluating teachers under new state guidelines.

"This principal is known for his work with turnaround schools," Johnson said.

When reached Wednesday night, Strachan said he needed to "work out the logistics with my own district."

Roosevelt school district officials could not be reached for comment.

Parents have been calling for the position to be filled for months, citing a leadership crisis at the school. They have said students are not properly supervised, leading to fights and other problems.

At a raucous school board meeting last week where parents demanded the district hire a principal, Johnson said the board of education had interviewed a finalist for the position.

Strachan started at Roosevelt in 2010 with the school district under the state's control and the high school showing up on lists of New York's lowest-performing schools. Since then, the district has returned to local control, a dress code was established and graduation rates improved, although still below the state's minimum standard of 80 percent.

In May, two of the high school's students were awarded scholarships to Cornell University -- believed to be the first time in 15 years Roosevelt students gained the honor at an Ivy League school.

Strachan dealt with questions in June when he released a statement "apologizing to the Roosevelt community and to the class of 2014" after his yearbook message to graduates borrowed almost verbatim from the words of a California high school principal to his graduating class of 2013. Strachan blamed the mistake on a clerical error.

Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. was glad to see the district hiring a principal, but said it's only one of many challenges facing the campus.

"Certainly, there are lots of issues that need resolving at the high school," he said before the board made its selection. "They have had a number of approaches as to how to organize the high school without achieving the academic progress we would hope."

Johnson said this latest combination is it. Strachan would be the most senior administrator at the high school, followed by three associate assistant principals, two assistant principals -- all five are already in place -- and two deans, neither of whom have been selected pending the new principal's approval.

Stroughn was hired in August 2013 to be executive principal of the high school at $550 a day. He had previously served as the high school principal from 2003 until he retired in 2009.

During his second stint, he temporarily lost his authority over student and graduation records after a squabble with other administrators. He regained control just days before commencement.

Stroughn said in June that the district's graduation rate was near 50 percent, an increase from 35.5 percent in 2013.

Hempstead is one of the poorest districts on Long Island and its graduation rate is among the lowest in the region.

The announcement about the principal comes as the district gears up for a new school board election on October 28 after King threw out the results for one seat in the May 20 vote. Candidates have until Sept. 29 to register. The term expires June 30.

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