New York State lawmakers and education policymakers met Thursday with Hempstead School District officials to discuss how they can work together to solve the many problems facing the troubled district, participants said.
State Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa, who called the meeting, described it as the first of many. Among the topics discussed was settling differences between state legislators who passed a bill that would enact a fiscal oversight panel and district administrators who oppose the move.
“I think there is an openness about taking the bill, looking at the language, and perhaps looking at strengthening that language so that we can all collectively get to a better place,” Rosa told reporters during a news briefing after the meeting.
The bill, which passed in June, currently awaits a decision by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has declined to say whether he will veto it or sign it into law.
David Gates, president of the school district’s board of education, which opposes the bill, indicated that he’d like to see more specific language clarifying the proposed oversight panel’s veto power over the board’s financial decisions.
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“The school bill, it does not take out the school board, as a lot of people feared,” said State Sen. Kevin Thomas (D-Levittown), who co-sponsored the bill. “This is there to help them. My only intention is to put students first.”
Assemblywoman Taylor Darling (D-Hempstead), who also co-sponsored the bill, said that she is “very confident” that the bill will help right the ship in Hempstead schools.
“We are seeing a lot of missed opportunities for people, not because they’re not capable, but because we have not yet provided a consistent structure for education,” Darling said. “That is our primary goal: To make sure that our administrators are supported, our teachers are supported, our students are supported, and our parents are supported.”
Regardless of what happens with the bill, participants say they hope the lines of communication remain open so they can advance academics — such as recently improving the graduation rate from 37 percent to more than 60 percent — and squash administrative infighting that has historically stymied reforms.
“We talked about all of us working together, not against each other, to ensure that that work continues,” said Hempstead School District Interim Superintendent Regina Armstrong.