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Superintendent: Stephen Strachan has accepted Hempstead High principal's job

Principal of Roosevelt HIgh School, Dr. Stephen Strachan,

Principal of Roosevelt HIgh School, Dr. Stephen Strachan, gives his morning announcement in the main office as the Roosevelt school district opens its doors for the first day of school on Sept. 9, 2013. Credit: Steve Pfost

The Hempstead school district's superintendent said Friday that Roosevelt High School Principal Stephen Strachan has accepted the position as head of Hempstead High School.

Superintendent Susan Johnson, through a spokesman, confirmed Strachan is joining the district.

Strachan, who has been principal of the Roosevelt secondary school since 2010, could not be reached for comment Friday.

He was credited by one Roosevelt administrator with improving the school's culture in part by initiating a dress code that brought a sense of discipline and dignity to the student body.

"We have grown quite fond of him over the years," Roosevelt board president Alfred Taylor said Thursday. "He's a good man."

The Hempstead post was left vacant by Reginald Stroughn's departure June 30. District officials, after making the selection at their board meeting Wednesday night, said Strachan is expected to start his job Nov. 3 at a prorated salary of $171,803.

Strachan, reached Wednesday night, had said he needed to work out logistics with the Roosevelt district. It was unclear until Johnson's confirmation Friday that he had accepted the post.

The Roosevelt district is not in a position to make a counteroffer, Taylor said, adding that Strachan earns about $146,000 annually.

The most recent state records available show Strachan earned $138,293 for a 12-month period ending June 2013.

Taylor said Strachan had not told him he was pursuing another position. But, he said, he had heard speculation about it.

"Roosevelt, Hempstead, Freeport, Uniondale -- there is nothing that can happen in that structure and not get around," Taylor said. "Roosevelt is a very strong community. We have been through a lot through the years. This will only be one more thing to add to the chapter of challenges that we have faced and overcome."

Taylor added that Strachan isn't solely responsible for Roosevelt High's progress. The board, superintendent and staff contributed, he said.

"It's not like everything will fall to pieces and break apart after he leaves," Taylor said. "If he has an opportunity in Hempstead and if they are going to pay him more money to do so, God bless him and I wish him the best."

Taylor said Roosevelt district leaders have not had time to talk about finding a replacement, and noted the staff has many qualified candidates in teaching and other administrative roles.

"There is no reason to look outside," he said. "We have the talent."

Victoria Culbreath, a parent of two in the Hempstead district and a resident for 20 years, has long been concerned about a lack of leadership at the high school. She said she is cautiously optimistic about Strachan.

"I look forward to meeting and working with the new principal," she said. "The district faces so many other challenges. The focus must be on helping our students do better."

Elias Mestizo, head of the Hempstead district's teachers union, said he hopes the high school's new leader will engage educators, parents and students. The school has seen enormous change over the past few years, he said, and would benefit from stability.

In 2010, the district switched from a traditional single high school to a college-preparatory academy system, with four divisions -- three for grades 9-11 and one for 12th-graders. The school board in spring 2013 decided to scrap the academies and return to the single-school concept for all four grades.

Teachers were not included in any of those decisions, Mestizo said. "There are still a lot of questions about how to move forward," he said.

Mestizo said he hopes Strachan's experience at Roosevelt High translates to the new position.

"We tend to have the same challenges," he said.

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