Good Morning
Good Morning

Reason to be optimistic about Hempstead schools

Hempstead school board president LaMont Johnson, right, speaks

Hempstead school board president LaMont Johnson, right, speaks to auditor Michael Nawrocki at a meeting on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016. Credit: Jeff Bachner

The new majority on the Hempstead school board wasted no time moving forward with its reform agenda. Less than 48 hours after assuming control in last week’s elections, the reformers led a unanimous vote Thursday to begin the process of replacing superintendent Susan Johnson, whose contract expires at the end of June. That’s a good move, and long overdue.

Johnson, who was fired twice before, has been an impediment to progress. A former Hempstead board authorized a search for a replacement in November 2014 — after the Johnson-helmed district failed abysmally in registering and educating immigrant children — but that went nowhere. This time, newly elected trustee Melissa Figueroa joined reform team members Maribel Touré and Gwendolyn Jackson in pushing a smart plan to hire a veteran interim superintendent who can instill order and organization while a national search is conducted for someone skilled in reviving struggling schools.

The trio also took turns questioning many spending and personnel decisions at last week’s meeting, demonstrating their commitment to openness, transparency and being financial watchdogs. Another positive sign: the budget work done by interim business manager Calvin Wilson, whose recent hiring was engineered by Touré and Jackson and who already found $900,000 in savings by bidding out Hempstead’s busing contract for private and parochial school students.

It’s way too early to say that Hempstead has turned a corner. As Figueroa said Thursday night, “We’ve got a lot of work to do.” But the reformers’ intentions are clear and their instincts sound, and while they might make some mistakes along the way, they are getting good things done. Finally, there is reason to be optimistic about education in Hempstead. — The editorial board