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Hempstead School Board Members Take Exception To Intervention Proposal, Fight For Independence In Albany

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- The New York state Senate passed unprecedented legislation Wednesday calling for intervention to help the struggling Hempstead School District.

The Assembly was expected to get the bill next.

It's a measure just short of a state take-over after dysfunction and alleged corruption that CBS2 has reported on for years.

New York State Regent Roger Tilles has watched decades of failure in the Hempstead School District. He believes an unprecedented panel of monitors is the best fix.

"The people of a district should really have a say what goes on in the district. When they're say becomes detrimental to the kids of the district intermediary steps have to be taken, so that's what we are doing," Tilles told CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff.

MORE"We Need To Do Something Drastic": First-Of-Its-Kind State Intervention Proposed In Hempstead School District

(Photo: CBS2)

Tilles helped formulate the plan that would impose an immediate three-member oversight panel with veto power over superintendent selection and expenditures.

Incensed elected school board members were fighting for their independence in Albany on Wednesday, after a pep rally-style gathering Tuesday claiming graduation numbers are up from 37 percent two years ago to 60 percent this year, suggesting the bills in the state capital insult rather than help Hempstead students.

"This is not working together. This is not wishing us our very best. This is not supporting the students. This is your own personal agenda," Hempstead School District board member Randy Stith said. "We don't even know if those numbers are accurate."

MOREAfter Trustee's Plea To Crimes, Hempstead School Board Divided What To Do Next

Critics say the monitors are needed to verify academic data after years of grades being fudged, and needed to monitor a $215 million budget too often wasted on infighting.

"Kids cannot continue to fail and our money cannot continue to be squandered," school board trustee Gwen Jackson said.

The last straw was a report from the state-appointed distinguished educator who seemed to throw in the towel on local autonomy. While he "had hoped that governance would improve substantially and permanently, it has not.

"The current board ... behavior is largely consistent with the behavior of prior boards over the past 20 years," the educator added.

FLASHBACK: Troubled Hempstead School District Finally Making Progress, Top Educator Says

Hofstra University education professor Alan Singer said an intervention is required.

"It's long past time that New York state step in in this way," Singer said. "Education is a state responsibility and what we have here is a divided school board that has demonstrated its inability to function."

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not yet said if he will find the money for this panel and turn the bills into law.

Meanwhile, to see "37%," CBS2's award-winning documentary on the Hempstead School District, please click here.

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