March 1 was a day of triumph for both Hempstead High School and Alverta B. Gray Schultz Middle School.
On that day, Hempstead Superintendent of Schools Regina Armstrong announced to the Hempstead Board of Education that the two schools had been removed from the New York State Department of Education’s list of underperforming schools.
At a news conference in the high school media center on Monday, Armstrong said, “I stand before you with great pride, conviction and excitement to announce that we have done what most said we could not do..”
Board of Education President Randy Stith thanked a long roster of schoolteachers, officials, students, and past school board members, but added that the students “put in the hard work. They studied. Hempstead did not give out any grades for free.”
Armstrong also told the gathered crowd, “For the first time in decades, the New York State Comptroller’s office gave this district a rating of No Fiscal Stress. Yes, that’s right, even our finances are in good shape!”
Linda St. John, ABGS middle school interim principal, reminded everyone that, “ABGS is not only out of receivership, but we are also an IB World School, and we worked together to accomplish this.”
St. John credited prior interim principal Carey Gray with helping to make the success happen.
Gray came to the podium to say, “We began our transformation process … with a shared vision to establish goals, commitments and ownership over the work.”
Dr. Stephen Strachan, principal of Hempstead High, echoed Gray’s words, saying, “On many days when we thought we would not see today, today we are living in our reality, that hard work pays off, commitment pays off, and dedication to goals pays off.”
Trustee Lamont Johnson again emphasized the extreme teamwork by which the goal of “good standing” had been achieved. He acknowledged the oversight of the monitors sent in by NYSED to guide the changes. But, he said, “Even the monitor will tell you that we did the work. We have almost 7,000 students and almost 1,200 employees … so it was teamwork that made it happen.”
About a dozen high school seniors attended the news conference. Stith invited them to join the superintendent and board members around the podium. Sheets of paper printed in red with the word RECEIVERSHIP were passed out to the group.
Nashlie Morales, student government president, told the crowd, “I do find great honor in being here today, with everyone who has played a part, with our guidance counselors, with our teachers, staff, and administration.”
She raised her sheet of paper into the air and ripped it happily in two, joined by the group surrounding her, to conclude the news conference.
Afterward, board president Stith shed light on one of the most important aspects of the district’s achievement.
“Thanks to the state education department and the Empire State itself,” Stith said, “who gave us grant funds so we have after-school programs, because students cannot have any idle time. So we open our doors until 6:00 at night to our students.”
Stith also highlighted the efforts of the administration and the board members to provide a supportive presence at the district’s many events.
“For a job like this,” Stith said, “you have to have the commitment, the drive. The students’ success story is what makes it all worthwhile.”
Charles Renfroe, past deputy mayor and former school board president, said, “The kids are the most important part. The best award I ever got was Parent of the Year, at Marshall School [now David Paterson School]. So I think today is a great day in the Village of Hempstead.”
Former mayor and Hempstead High teacher Don Ryan told the Beacon, “I’m a product of the district, K through 12th grade. I returned as a teacher. This is a glorious day for us.”