Controversy is a wretched constant in the Hempstead school district. Whether it’s out in the open or fomenting just beneath the surface, factional fighting has damaged the troubled district and its vulnerable students for too long.
The latest episode is the ongoing attempt by the board of education’s three-member majority to remove one of its colleagues for alleged election-related misbehavior. The group of reformers — Gwen Jackson, Melissa Figueroa and president Maribel Toure — say former board president LaMont Johnson gave a list of district employees and their contact information to his ally Randy Stith, who used it to help himself beat Figueroa in last month’s voting.
If the charge is true, Johnson must go. But such a move would undoubtedly be appealed, and yet another election-related controversy in Hempstead would be headed to the desk of state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia.
Meanwhile, Johnson and incumbent David Gates have made clear their dislike for new Superintendent Shimon Waronker, who started in the position June 2. If Johnson remains on the board, he, Gates and Stith would take control on Thursday and be in position to remove Waronker. That would require an expensive buyout, given his $265,000-a-year contract and the 47 months remaining on it. That could mean Hempstead again would be paying two superintendent salaries in its never-ending leadership merry-go-round; a new schools chief would be the fourth in Hempstead in less than two years.
That would mean more upheaval, more regression, more starting over — and more putting the students second. And that is the worst wretched constant in Hempstead.