The Hempstead school board has brought back the man named the state's high school principal of the year in 2008 in an attempt to improve the district's troubled high school.
The board hired Reginald Stroughn, Hempstead's principal from 2003 until he retired in 2009, to be executive principal of the high school. Stroughn, whose hiring is retroactive to July 22, will receive $550 a day.
"I have had success in turning the school around," said Stroughn, 61, of Baldwin. "The district welcomed me back overwhelmingly. It brought tears to my eyes that people wanted me to come back. I know that I can do this job."
When Stroughn first was named principal in 2003, Hempstead's graduation rate was 38 percent. When he left in 2009, it reached 59 percent. Last year, it was back to 38 percent, the lowest among the Island's 124 public school districts.
"They should have brought him back a long time ago," said Terri Noble, treasurer of the high school's parent-teacher association, who has a daughter who graduated in 2006. "He had a good relationship with the kids and he is a strong figure."
Stroughn was brought in as part of the board's plan to dissolve its three college preparatory academies and consolidate them along with the Senior Academy under the name Hempstead High School.
The district will request a waiver from the state Education Department that would allow Stroughn to serve as principal and collect more than $30,000 in salary on top of his $150,000-plus state pension.
"If they don't get the waiver, I would suspend my retirement for two years," Stroughn said.
Stroughn's team will include three assistant principals: Olga Young, a Hempstead High School dean who will oversee the 10th grade, at a salary of $138,919; Rachel Blount, a Hempstead middle school dean, who will be in charge of ninth grade, at $131,192; and Claude Irwin, a former Amityville school district math director who will oversee 11th grade, at $125,753.
Stroughn said he's seeking a Spanish speaker to fill the 12th grade assistant principal spot.
In 2007, Hempstead High was removed from the state's list of low-achieving schools. Because of the upcoming high school consolidation, the state will likely designate it a "priority school" -- among the state's lowest-performing schools, a department spokesman said.
"I hope to get it in about two years off the failing schools list and increase the graduation rates," Stroughn said. "Unite the staff and students and get away from the division that happened with the four schools."
Stroughn said he plans a variety of measures to boost performance, including identifying areas where student achievement lags, bringing back Regents preparation programs and reinstituting the high school's night class program. He said he also will review class grades and graduation data, require all seniors to apply to the City University of New York and State University of New York, and hold meetings with students and their parents.
"We are looking to change it back to where students are coming in looking to graduate," Stroughn said.
Hempstead High School graduation rates
Reginald Stroughn was named principal in 2003 and retired in 2009.
2002-03: 38 percent
2003-04: 45 percent
2004-05: 50 percent
2005-06: 50 percent
2006-07: 64 percent
2007-08: 65 percent
2008-09: 59 percent
After Stroughn left:
2009-10: 56 percent
2010-11: 53 percent
2011-12: 38 percent
Source: State Education Department