Joye Brown has been a columnist for Newsday since 2006. She joined the newspaper in 1983 and has Show More
This was supposed to be a column about the Hempstead school board's unacceptable, and downright inept, response to a breach of security at a middle school that ended up with a teacher being attacked and left sprawled, unconscious, on the floor.
Someone -- nobody will say who -- took a photograph of the teacher. And it is horrifying. The photograph shows the teacher, unconscious and alone. There is no rescuer in the frame.
Where was security? How could the alleged assailants gain access to the building? Yes, there's an ongoing criminal investigation, and there have been two arrests -- of an adult and a minor -- in the case. But where was the notice to parents, teachers and the community?
They deserve to know what happened, and what the district was doing to ensure that it never happens again. But the district -- presumably in fear of a lawsuit -- repeatedly responded to last week's attack with legalese rather than answers.
After a few telephone calls Monday, however, the shape of this column began to change.
Make no mistake: It's still about the board's unacceptable, inept response to the attack -- but that's now been compounded by a new low: the late-night, removed-but-then-put-back-on-the-agenda-after-the-public-went-home hiring of former Freeport Mayor Andrew Hardwick as a $90,000-a-year "supervising security aide."
The process during that April 15 school board meeting was sneaky and -- as has become the board's practice, despite promises of openness from its president, Lamont Johnson -- secretive.
Hardwick's appointment was pulled from the agenda after three board members asked about his qualifications.
But after an hourslong executive session, it -- quick, snap -- was back on the agenda and approved, with one abstention.
What changed? Don't know, can't know, because Johnson did not return my calls Monday.
What I got instead was a telephone call asking that I put this column off for a day -- because Hardwick was going to announce a new security plan at a meeting Monday night.
There was no notice of the new security plan. Or the meeting.
Besides, there was a school board meeting scheduled for Tuesday night. Why not roll out the plan, for maximum impact, then? Again, there was no way to know because nobody wanted to deal with those or any other questions Monday afternoon.
Hardwick, as former mayor, came under criticism for carrying a gun in village hall, for using a village employee as a driver and for having armed security personnel at village meetings.
But wait, there's more.
Remember that campaign worker who was pulled off a bus and arrested by a Nassau police sergeant and two detectives on the orders of former Commissioner Thomas Dale?
That worker, Randy White, worked for Hardwick's failed third-party campaign for Nassau County executive. During a court hearing on Hardwick's campaign petitions in 2013, White testified that he was paid per signature, not by the hour -- which is illegal under state election law.
He later would complain to the Nassau district attorney's office that he'd been arrested and jailed by Nassau police at the behest of Hardwick's political campaign -- after Hardwick's sole donor, Oheka Castle owner Gary Melius, called Dale.
Dale later was forced to resign after the DA's office, which still is investigating some allegations, issued findings.
And Hardwick was the best Hempstead could muster after a crisis to handle district security? Really? Hempstead's students, teachers and staff deserve better from its board, much better.