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Hempstead district fires 5 administrators

Hempstead High School is at 201 President St.

Hempstead High School is at 201 President St. (Nov. 28, 2011) Credit: JC Cherubini

Without public explanation, the Hempstead school board has voted to fire a third of its principals.

The board voted 3-2 on Thursday to let go five top administrators -- four principals and a science director. President Betty Cross and trustees JoAnn Simmons and Shelley Brazley approved the terminations. Vice president Waylyn Hobbs Jr. and trustee Brandon V. Ray voted against the firings.

Cross said at the start of the meeting at Hempstead High that personnel matters would not be publicly discussed.

Those terminated were Principals Helisse Palmore of Barack Obama Elementary School, Dagoberto Artiles of the high school's Academy of Math & Science, David Evans of the Academy of Music & Art, James Thomas of the Academy of Business & Law; and Francisco Roca, district director of science. The fired principals either could not be reached or declined to comment. The effective termination dates are May 20 or June 30.

Roger Tilles, Long Island's representative on the state Board of Regents, attributed the dismissals to a regime change. "It seems like a lot of people who are being fired," Tilles said.

All the dismissed administrators were hired under former superintendent Patricia Garcia, who resigned in November after three years. Susan Johnson, a former two-time superintendent, took over when Garcia departed.

"Everybody knew that they were going to fire them," said Maribel Toure, a parent of an 11th-grader at the Academy of Math & Science, who attended the meeting. "They have no shame . . . Now the district taxpayers are going to have to pay if they sue the board."

Hempstead civil rights attorney Frederick Brewington said he represents one of the axed administrators and anticipates representing several others.

Alan Singer, a Hofstra University education professor who focuses on minority school districts, said the principals "serve at the pleasure of the school board. The school board doesn't want to give an explanation of why they were removed because it opens them to litigation."

While district officials did not explain the firings, the district has struggled academically.

After the meeting, Johnson declined to discuss the terminations. She acknowledged, however, that the state Education Department is investigating the district's alleged noncompliance with laws governing special education programs.

District officials also declined to comment on an audit under way by the state comptroller's office. Comptroller's spokesman Brian Butry confirmed the audit but declined to give details.

Town Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby said she is concerned about the litany of issues facing the district. "We are adults, and we are supposed to look after the young ones," she said. "I am worried about the students in the district."

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