Lawmakers Reach Agreement On Wyandanch, Hempstead School Monitors

Joie Tyrrell

January 17, 2020

Originally published in Newsday on January 17, 2020.

An agreement has been reached in an effort to appoint state monitors to oversee the Hempstead and Wyandanch school districts, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's office said Friday.

The original two bills, approved by the State Legislature in June, gave monitors an unusual degree of power over the districts, including veto power over spending and appointment of the superintendent in Wyandanch — and created a three-person panel with similar authority in Hempstead. Two amendments to the bills, filed Thursday, still call for a monitor in each district, but give greater authority to the state commissioner of education, who would approve the systems' academic and financial plans as well as appointment of the monitors.

The governor’s office said the amended bills could be considered as soon as next week, and state Sen. Kevin Thomas (D-Levittown) added they could be enacted by the end of the month. The state Education Department then would appoint monitors and set their salaries, which would be paid from school district budgets.

Officials with the governor’s office said they expect the state Education Department to act fast in appointing monitors. The compromise legislation also provides transparency, with public hearings required in each district, they said.

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“After discussions with the Legislature, we've reached an agreement that will help us achieve this goal by ensuring the communities have input into the monitor process through extensive public hearings, that the monitor and the board will work collaboratively to reach consensus on academic and fiscal plans, and that ultimate accountability and responsibility lies where it belongs, with the commissioner of education,” Cuomo spokesman Jason Conwall said Friday.

The Hempstead bill was sponsored by Assemb. Taylor Darling (D-Hempstead) and Thomas. The Wyandanch bill was backed by Assemb. Kimberly Jean-Pierre (D-Babylon) and state Sen. John Brooks (D-Seaford).