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CBS2 Exclusive: Hempstead High School, Other LI Schools Must Improve Or Face Takeover

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Failing schools across New York are about to be put to the test with new rules that pave the way for an outsider takeover.

On Long Island, Hempstead High School and Middle School have been deemed "persistently failing" by the state, CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported exclusively Thursday.

So beginning in July, they will enter a "receivership." That means the superintendent can override the elected school board and has one year to show improvement or face takeover by a third party -- an individual, nonprofit or even another school district.

Hempstead High seniors, days from receiving their diplomas, are proud they've bucked the odds in a district with an abysmal 37 percent graduation rate.

"It was very incompetent," said graduating senior Amber Baez. "I'm, like, really lucky that I came this far."

Six Long Island schools face receivership. In addition to the two schools in Hempstead, they include Ralph Reed School in Central Islip, Roosevelt Middle and High School, and Milton Olive Middle School in Wyandanch.

"I really think it's excellent, because our kids need help," said parent Morris Staton.

In all, 170 schools statewide have been struggling for years in the bottom 5 percent of performance.

Receivership is not a full state takeover. It could mean money for struggling districts, but also the loss of local rule.

"I take my voting rights very seriously, so I don't like anyone come in," said the Rev. Cornelius Watson, a Hempstead community leader.

"We put these people into office because we believed that they're going to do the right thing for our children," added Dennis Jones, a Hempstead district parent.

But many worry about relying on the very administrators at the helm of a failing ship. In Hempstead, the superintendent was cited in a state audit for alleged double dipping.

"I think there is an entire cloud over the district, and an even darker one over the current superintendent," said civil rights attorney Fred Brewington.

But New York State Regents Member Roger Tilles said receivership brings in distinguished educators to partner with the district.

"They're all very, very competent people who have had experience running districts like this," Tilles said.

The Hempstead superintendent and the school board did not comment.

"I'm glad that I made it. I'm glad my friends made it," said Hempstead graduating senior Elijah John. "I just pray that the district gets better for the future generations."

Districts have until June 29 to appeal their failing designation or face receivership.

State regents are considering neighboring Hofstra University, in Hempstead, to assist in the school district's turnaround.

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