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Looking for guidance

Exterior of Hempstead High School on July 10,

Exterior of Hempstead High School on July 10, 2018. Credit: Danielle Silverman

Daily Point

A step toward oversight

The stickiest sticking point in the negotiations on bills for monitors for the long-troubled Hempstead and Wyandanch school districts hammered out by the State Senate, Assembly and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office apparently was where veto power over school board decisions in Hempstead in particular would reside: with the on-site monitor or the state education commissioner.

The resolution — which gave that authority to the commissioner — produced similar solutions for the two districts. Each will have a single monitor appointed by state ed  — in conjunction with the state Board of Regents for Hempstead, and in consultation with the state comptroller for Wyandanch. Hempstead’s monitor will oversee the district’s educational and fiscal operations, while Wyandanch’s monitor will have oversight on fiscal operations only. If a monitor believes a district is violating some element of the fiscal or academic improvement plans they will devise with the district, he or she would notify the commissioner, who could order the district to comply if he or she agrees with the monitor.

Now attention shifts to how these bills will be received in each district. Both have been resistant in the past to “outsiders” providing assistance. So it was smart to include in each measure a requirement that each monitor schedule public hearings — three for Hempstead, two for Wyandanch — at which residents can comment. That will be important in terms of informing the community about the new structure and gaining buy-in. In Hempstead, though, acceptance is not likely to get any easier given that state stats released Thursday show the high school’s graduation rate rose from 44.3% to 57.1%, giving opponents a reason to say state help is not needed.

Still, the bills’ sponsors were pleased with the end result.

“What we wanted was a monitor to direct the school district in the right direction and, if they didn’t follow, have the power to make them do X-Y-Z,” State Sen. Kevin Thomas told The Point. Thomas (D-Levittown) and Assemb. Taylor Darling (D-Hempstead) sponsored the Hempstead bill.

“That’s what we wanted and that’s what we got,” Thomas said. “I’m very satisfied.”

Both bills were re-filed this week, and must be approved again by both chambers and signed by Cuomo, which seems virtually certain. 

“We got what we wanted without destroying the community,” said Sen. John Brooks (D-Seaford), who sponsored the Wyandanch bill with Assemb. Kimberly Jean Pierre (D-Wheatley Heights). “If everybody plays right, we can get there.”

—Michael Dobie @mwdobie

Talking Point

An inhospitable hospital

For newly appointed Nassau University Medical Center board Chairman Bob Detor, the meeting Thursday night when he was handed the reins by outgoing chairman George Tsunis was an eye-opening welcome.

“It was quite a scene,” Detor told The Point Friday. “I kind of felt bad for everybody there. There was a collision of multiple agendas and it ignited a pretty raucous meeting.”

The Civil Service Employees Association, representing 3,000 hospital employees who are increasingly fearful their jobs could vanish if Northwell Health’s alliance with NUMC deepens, had protesters and a sound truck blaring “Keep your hands off, Northwell” outside the 530-bed facility. And inside the meeting county CSEA head Jerry Larrichiuta bombarded hospital officials with questions.

“It seemed like the employees were frightened and lashing out,” Detor said, “and some board members didn’t seem to know what was going on at all.”

Other board members, though, came in with a firm plan in mind that seemed intended to flex the muscles of both the CSEA and the political opponents of County Executive Laura Curran and put Detor on notice.

Led by Warren Zysman, who had not attended a meeting for months, the board named chief medical officer Anthony Boutin to an 18-month term as interim chief executive and president, voted to issue a request for proposals for a nationwide search for a new chief executive and put on hold nearly two dozen agreements with Northwell.

County officials say it’s actually Detor and Curran who control appointing any acting chief executive, making that move invalid. And Detor said he likely would ask Boutin to fill the role regardless, but was “really irritated that they took away my chance to do it.”

More than anything, the moves were intended to put Detor and Curran on notice that any interruptions to the NUMC status quo would be met with a wall of opposition from both the CSEA and members appointed by the Republicans who controlled the hospital and its patronage for generations.

And Detor says the best tool for fighting back will be filling the board’s five empty seats with appointees dedicated to the best interests of the hospital, and making sure the board is well-informed.

Friday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed off on two new appointees, and the other three are in the works. 

And Detor’s vision does make it clear there have to be big changes at NUMC, regardless of the fear or opposition.

“We have to make informed decisions based upon data, that maintain necessary services for the community,” Detor said. “And it won’t look like it does today.”

—Lane Filler @lanefiller

Pencil Point

Wrong box

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Final Point

Who said it? Day 8

Today we present the final edition of The Point’s 2020 Democratic contender books series. We hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of the candidates’ books, and that you’ve successfully matched some of the quotes and been surprised by others. See full questions and answers here. Today's question: Which candidate thinks the following about President Barack Obama? 

  1. This candidate applauds Obama’s belief that “because of automation, because of globalization, we’re going to have to examine the social compact, the same way we did early in the 19th century and then again during and after the Great Depression.”
  2. This candidate praises Obama’s rhetoric and logic in discussing the Iran deal: “As his speeches often are this one was a logical and careful exposition.”
  3. This candidate organizes decision-making into a four-box matrix where the top-right box is “important,” “not urgent” issues. The candidate writes that Obama “has valiantly tried to stay focused on the long-term work in the top right quadrant.”
  4. “I supported President Obama ... He expanded health care and strengthened regulations over Wall Street ... But there were times when President Obama and I parted company,” like when Obama said in 2016 that “the system isn’t as rigged as you think.”
  5. The candidate writes that Obama won almost 44 percent of the Mississippi vote in 2012 with only 10 percent of the white vote and little attention from the national party. “There is little doubt in my mind that if Democrats develop a fifty-state strategy … we can both increase black voter turnout and win a much higher percentage of white votes.” 

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

We hope you have a relaxing and meaningful Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The Point will return on Tuesday.