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Activists seek probe of Hempstead district, school board

Mary Crosson, 58, of Hempstead, right, spoke during

Mary Crosson, 58, of Hempstead, right, spoke during a rally at Hempstead High School Thursday afternoon as an alliance of community members called for a deeper State Department of Education investigation into the Hempstead school board and the current failings of the district. (June 6, 2013) Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

About 15 community activists and residents rallied outside Hempstead High School Thursday calling for the state Education Department to investigate the Hempstead school board and the school district.

Critics say the district’s poor academic performance, spending, management decisions, lack of transparency and compliance with state laws need to be reviewed.

“We want this investigation,” said Mary Crosson, 58, of Hempstead, a member of the advocacy group New York Communities for Change whose granddaughter attends Franklin Elementary School. “We pay too many taxes here and we’re not going to take it anymore.”

Hempstead Deputy Superintendent Julius Brown denied claims the school board and administration are not transparent, saying the board holds public meetings and has held several forums to discuss issues affecting students.

“Why would they want them to investigate us?” asked Brown, adding district officials have agreed to meet with the group Thursday.

State Education Department spokesman Tom Dunn said anyone with information pertaining to fraud or mismanagement of public funds should report it to the department’s Office of Audit Services.

Brown acknowledged the Education Department is already investigating the district’s alleged noncompliance with laws governing special education programs and that it recently completed an audit of the English as a Second Language and bilingual program.

He also cited an audit under way by the state comptroller’s office.

The Education Department is also reviewing its decision not to classify Hempstead High School as a “priority school,” a short list of the lowest-performing schools in the state. Hempstead qualified to be identified as such in July 2012 but was not listed this year because the district had begun phasing out the large high school, which was slated to close this month.

In April, the Hempstead school board approved a plan to dissolve the three college preparatory academies — each with students now in grades 9-11 — and the Senior Academy, with 12th-graders, and consolidate all four grades under the name Hempstead High School. The plan requires state approval.

“The four-school concept is operationally impossible,” Brown said. “We’re not happy about the graduation rate as well. The things that we are doing are to try to address the graduation rates.”
 

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