School candidate joins march, presses Hempstead mayor on statements
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Hempstead school board candidate Maribel Touré, who is fighting results that gave incumbent Betty Cross a narrow victory in last month's election, joined dozens of community members Tuesday in a march on Village Hall to protest the mayor's contention that "outside influence" was being exerted on the outcome.
Touré, alongside members of New York Communities for Change and The Corridor Counts, asked Mayor Wayne J. Hall Sr. in a board meeting Tuesday night why he stood by Cross, who won the election by just a handful of votes.
Days after the election, Hall was the second speaker in a news conference held in Cross' honor. He said he was tired of outside influences trying to determine the election results.
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But Tuesday, he said he did not support Cross: He said he voted for Touré.
"I'm for the kids," he said, adding that while he spoke at the news conference, "I wasn't supporting any candidate."
He also said that while Cross has been blamed by some for the district's low graduation rates, parents and other board members are also responsible for how the children fare.
"One person does not make a school board," he said.
He and Deputy Mayor Waylyn Hobbs Jr. said repeatedly that they did not have influence over the school district -- that they are two different entities -- but community leaders pressed them to take more responsibility; one speaker asked them to sign a letter demanding that Cross resign.
Hall did not respond.
Touré and Ricky Cooke ran in the May 20 election as a team; Cooke had by far the highest vote count among seven candidates.
Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice is investigating the election. Her office has issued three subpoenas and confiscated all materials related to the vote, those with knowledge of the case have said.
Touré's attorney, Fred Brewington, has said he plans to file a complaint with the state Department of Education. Commissioner John B. King Jr. has authority to decide the matter.
On election night, Touré led with 712 votes to Cross' 691.
The next day, when 31 absentee ballots were opened, Cross won by six votes.
She and Cooke were sworn in that day, May 21. Cross, 67, has served on the board for more than 25 years and is its current president.Community members who participated in Tuesday's march said they want change.
Mary Crosson, 66 and a Hempstead resident for 20 years, said her granddaughter had to move out of the school district to get a better education.
Crosson said her own daughter, a Hempstead graduate, had to take remedial classes in college because she was poorly prepared in high school.
"I want to see the children learn," she said.