A group of Hempstead school parents, students, and community members announced Monday the formation of a new educational advocacy group called Save Hempstead Students.
The group is being led by Taylor Raynor, a 34-year-old business analyst who is also challenging the 18th district’s 30-year incumbent Deputy Assembly Speaker Earlene Hooper (D-Hempstead) in the Sept. 13 primary. Speaking at a news conference attended by about a half-dozen local community members, Raynor, a Democrat, delivered a sharply worded message to Hooper.
“We are putting you on notice,” Raynor said. “You have failed the students of the Hempstead School district. We cannot, should not and will not stand by any longer and allow your failures to impact our childrens’ future. We are not here to just survive, we are here to thrive.”
While Raynor didn’t get into specifics regarding her group’s efforts, she said they would “brainstorm” and work on real solutions before classes begin on Sept. 5.
Raynor did say that the more than 8,000 student Hempstead School District’s long list of problems include mismanagement of state funds, rises in dropout rates and double digit drops in graduation rates, to 39 percent in 2017.
She also talked about a lack of bus transportation in the district that was a safety concern given that some students must walk through neighborhoods plagued by gang violence.
Raynor also added that some Hempstead students have gone without heat during winter months and still others have been forced to take classes in trailers in front of schools.
In a May letter from the State Education Department, the Hempstead district was warned that continued reporting inaccuracies of district data could result in an eventual state takeover of the district.
Raynor noted that under Hooper’s watch, adequate funding for the district has not been provided and that the district has “crumbled.”
“For 30 years, Hooper has been responsible for the deterioration of the Hempstead School district, which is why we’re here today, our mission is to fight for our students’ right to quality education,” Raynor said.
Former Hempstead Village Mayor Wayne Hall Sr, who lost his election last year after holding office for 12 years, was no fan of Hooper, comparing her incumbency to a “dictator that gets into power and stays there.” Hall added that she has done nothing for Hempstead residents and that she’s been allowed to get away with “doing nothing for far too long.”
“Hooper doesn’t care about this district,” Hall said. “Unfortunately, she keeps getting elected because she’s in a heavily Democratic district.”
Reached by phone, following the news conference, Hooper was asked about other help she has provided for the Hempstead School District since 2009, when she helped secure a grant of $200,000 for the district.
When asked to clarify the statement, Hooper again repeated: “The Stop & Shop grocery store, which is located in the village of Hempstead, shall remain open due to the intervention of the deputy speaker.”
In May, Stop & Shop officials confirmed that Hooper was involved in the company’s decision to change course and keep its Hempstead Village store open. Initially, the company had sought to close the store due to under-performance.