State education commissioner meets with Hempstead school board

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HEMPSTEAD -

The Hempstead School Board's decision to put Superintendent Shimon Waronker on a 60-day paid administrative leave prompted a visit from state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia Thursday night.

She met with the five-member board for a series of one-on-one discussions.

News 12 reported that Waronker sent an open letter to parents in the district that blasted the school board for allegedly derailing his plan to turn the troubled district around. He accused the board's new majority of firing special investigators who were "looking at abuse, mismanagement and corruption."

A scathing state report followed his letter and appeared to support his claims. 

In the report, state-appointed consultant Jack Bierwirth addressed 10 critical areas of concern and made specific recommendations. It listed almost every aspect of the school district, including administration, finances, security and building maintenance.  

Elia said that of the district's 10 schools, just three are in "good standing" under state guidelines.

"The board understands it has some serious challenges here," Elia said after the meeting. "They made some decisions. We are not second-guessing the decisions made by a school board in New York, however they have some things that are going to require leadership."

Board member Lamont Johnson said he heard the education commissioner's message loud and clear.

"The message was a no-nonsense message," he said. "And we have to get our act together."

Meanwhile, Waronker has been barred from school property while on a 60-day leave. The board could review, shorten or extend his leave.

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