Don't expect more involvement from the state, which desperately doesn't want a second [Roosevelt] on its hands. Except for the fact that the takeover in Roosevelt has been ineffective, this might seem unfair to Hempstead. The parallels in the political, demographic and academic conditions in the two school districts are remarkably similar. In both cases, repeated failures to improve education fed into debilitating factional disputes on the school boards. In both districts more than 99 percent of the student population is nonwhite, with high rates of poverty. Both communities face gang-related problems.
Sixty-six percent of the students in Hempstead and 75 percent of the students in Roosevelt who took the most recent state mathematics Regents examination failed. Hempstead ranked 55th among Nassau's 56 school districts. Roosevelt ranked last. Students in Roosevelt and Hempstead schools also rank last in the county on the global history exam, graduation rates and number of students who earned Regents diplomas.
As we have learned in Roosevelt, the answer is not in a state takeover, but finding a way to end racial and economic segregation on Long Island. The best solution is to create consolidated school districts. For example, if the Hempstead schools merged with the surrounding school districts of Garden City, Mineola, Carle Place, Herricks and West Hempstead, there would be one school district with approximately 20,000 students. Fifty-five percent would be white, 23 percent African-American or Caribbean, 14 percent Latino, and 8 percent Asian. A similar plan could combine the Roosevelt and Wyandanch school districts with neighboring largely white districts.