Rockville Centre Schools Superintendent William Johnson. On July 1, Johnson...

Rockville Centre Schools Superintendent William Johnson. On July 1, Johnson will take on the roll of state monitor for the Hempstead School District. Credit: Danielle Silverman

State education officials wisely selected retiring Rockville Centre schools superintendent William Johnson as monitor for the troubled Hempstead school district. Now he and Hempstead officials must make this partnership work to deliver, finally, the quality education Hempstead's students deserve.

The highly respected Johnson is eager for the challenge. So far, Hempstead board members have publicly welcomed him. With guidance from state-appointed adviser Jack Bierwirth the past two years, Hempstead has taken some positive steps in academic performance and finances and is building a new elementary school. All that is reason for optimism.

But the school board still is fractious, and in flux after the March death of president David Gates. There is much more work to be done on academics, including educating English language learners, and on finances with possible state aid cuts and students fleeing for area charter schools. Johnson's first order of business: drafting a desperately needed conflict of interest policy. A decision must be made about the future of acting superintendent Regina Armstrong, who has done a credible job.

New state laws that set the monitor position also created a financial monitor in Wyandanch, Long Island's poorest school district. Albert Chase, a former Garden City school business official, helped the board there construct a budget that would hike taxes by 3.3%, a proposal Chase rightly called "responsible."

Both positions were needed. Johnson and Chase are approaching their tasks with the proper spirit of collaboration. The road back is long and the work is hard. Hopefully, these new steps are just the beginning.

— The editorial board


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