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Experts: Superintendent wrong to order fired principal from school property

Hempstead School District Superintendent Susan Johnson, seen speaking

Hempstead School District Superintendent Susan Johnson, seen speaking at a district meeting in 2013. Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

Hempstead schools Superintendent Susan Johnson may have erred when she demanded that a fired principal leave district property after he tried to attend a school board meeting on Tuesday, according to experts on public meetings.

Johnson confronted David Evans in the school district's office outside a closed-door executive session the board was holding during a special meeting at school headquarters. Evans was one of three principals who sued the district last year after the school board dismissed them, dissolved the academy system and re-created one large high school.

"You are not allowed on school district property," Johnson told Evans in front of members of the public, saying he had been notified he was banned from school grounds.

Johnson summoned security officers to the office, but Evans, who was nonconfrontational, had already left.

"I was never told verbally or in writing that I was banned or couldn't come onto school property," Evans, former principal of the Academy of Music & Art, said in an interview Wednesday, adding he attended the meeting to give his business card to board members and tell them he wanted to work again for the district. "I've never done anything anywhere to get banned."

Earlier this month, district officials appealed a Nassau County Supreme Court ruling that found the district failed to comply with state law when it fired the principals before conducting a performance evaluation.

Terminated employees or individuals who have sued the district should have the same access to board meetings and school facilities as other members of the public, unless there is a protective order signed by a court barring an individual access, said David Albert, spokesman for the New York State School Boards Association.Evans and his lawyer, Michael A. Starvaggi, said there was no such notice.

"Whether they like him or not . . . it doesn't matter," said Robert J. Freeman, executive director of the Committee on Open Government, which oversees the state's open meetings law. "The person has a right to be there."

School officials did not respond to a request for comment.

During the meeting, the board voted 4-1 to adopt a proposed budget of $184.96 million for 2014-2015, under the 2 percent tax levy cap.

There will be another school board meeting Thursday at 7.Trustee Shelley Brazley, who said she had less than 24 hours to review the proposal, voted against the budget, which calls for a 3.42 percent increase from the current budget.

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