The Hempstead Union Free School District has struggled for years to gain stability due to severe issues with fiscal accountability, transparency, curriculum development, accurate grade reporting, and security.
Children have endured interrupted education, moldy food, dangerously unsanitary conditions, vermin, and classes in dilapidated trailers. Currently, students do not have bus transportation to and from school. Some of our students walk up to 2.8 miles to and from school daily.
This is not how any child deserves to live, especially when their school district has a $222,000,000 budget.
The graduation rate dropped to 37 percent a few years ago. Dismal graduation numbers pave the path to poverty and where there is poverty there is usually crime. In the Hempstead School District, the educational environment fuels the school-to-prison pipeline.
This is a huge problem for New York State. Hempstead is one of the worst-performing school districts in the country. This is why state Sen. Kevin Thomas (D-Garden City) and I introduced unprecedented legislation to support the Hempstead School District. This decision was fueled by the final report from a state-appointed distinguished educator who cited that despite some improvements, governance remained a major issue.
The legislation would appoint a panel of three monitors with veto power to provide oversight and guidance to the school district. This panel would work with the Hempstead School Board of Education and the superintendent to create fiscal, educational, and operational plans to improve the school district. The monitors would be state-funded subject matter experts. This is a unique situation and it requires a unique solution.
The state of the Hempstead School District is all of our problem. It is devastating that we have allowed the district to veer so far off course. We would never allow the school districts surrounding the Hempstead School District to suffer for a school year, let alone more than 25 school years.
We need an effective long-term plan that brings immediate shifts in the right direction. I firmly believe this legislation is an integral part of the plan. The legislation passed both the state Senate and Assembly. We need the governor’s signature so we can hire monitors ASAP and start improving the school district for our children. This matter is time sensitive and we need your support.
Please call Gov. Andrew Cuomo at 518-474-8390 and urge him to sign this bill into law.
Taylor Darling is a New York State Assemblymember