The attempted makeover of Hempstead High School is picking up speed, and that’s a good thing. Reforms that began this fall will be ramped up, now that the district’s board of education has unanimously approved tapping into more than $6 million in grants for the transformation plan.
The most startling aspect of the traditionally insular district’s strategy is its use of two respected outside organizations to help promote change. Johns Hopkins University will coach teachers in the transition to smaller learning communities: a ninth-grade academy, plus three focused on science and math, performing arts, and business and entrepreneurship. A fifth community, the school’s new international academy for newcomers and English language learners, will benefit from professional development and other services offered by the Internationals Network for Public Schools.
The high school also will expand a popular dance program beyond the school day and contract with The Princeton Review to provide SAT/ACT prep and college readiness programs for students and families. The innovations could render moot complaints from district officials about a charter high school expected to open in September with 50 ninth-graders. If Hempstead gets its house in order, there would be less need for the charter school.
There is a time crunch. Hempstead High has been designated as “persistently struggling” by the state Education Department. It must improve by the end of the school year or be placed under the control of an independent receiver. If the district delivers, it not only would avoid that fate, but it also would show that it finally has begun to transform its high school and provide the quality education its students deserve.