The Hempstead school district has been systematically changing some students'...

The Hempstead school district has been systematically changing some students' failing final course grades into passing grades. (Jun. 22, 2013) Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

It really should come as little surprise that a judge has found that the Hempstead school board acted improperly when it fired three principals last year. The ruling exposes once again the dysfunction, deception and ineffectiveness that has characterized this board for years.

The school board violated state law in firing the principals in April 2013 because it failed to evaluate them through a required annual professional performance review, according to Nassau Supreme Court Justice Norman Janowitz. The relevant statute says a review must be "a significant factor" in employment decisions, including termination. It doesn't get more basic than that. Without a review, the board's decision to fire the trio looks suspiciously like many other arbitrary decisions made by a body notorious for cronyism and nepotism.

One of the justifications offered in court by Hempstead's attorneys was that "dismal" student scores likely would have led to poor reviews and termination anyway. By that measure, hardly anyone should be retained in Hempstead, one of the poorest-performing districts on Long Island. But that and other post-firing rationalizations disguise some simple truths yet to be learned by this school board.

Process matters. Transparency matters. Law matters.

The episode highlights the need for strong advocates in the community, and opposition on the ballot to give residents choices. Fortunately, we're seeing more of both as school board elections approach in May. And that will give residents a chance to decide what kind of school board they would like to have.


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