David Paterson's name to grace Hempstead school
An elementary school in Hempstead Village will be renamed in honor of former Gov. David A. Paterson -- a former student there and the state's first African-American governor.
Fulton Elementary School will be the first school in the state named after Paterson. The Hempstead school board voted to make the change in 2010, but the renaming finally will take effect in September.
"David Paterson is an alumnus of that school," Hempstead Deputy Superintendent Julius Brown said recently. "What better way to honor his contribution to the local community and the state at large."
Hempstead also made history in 2009 when it changed the name of the former Ludlum Elementary School to Barack Obama Elementary School, the first school in the nation to bear the president's name.
"We need our students to understand that we produce all kinds of people -- politicians, players and professionals," Fulton principal Regina Armstrong said.
The unveiling of the Paterson school sign will take place June 26 at 7 p.m. on the school's front lawn. Paterson is expected to attend, along with Hempstead Town and village officials.
"Hempstead is always my home," said Paterson, 59, who was born in Brooklyn but lived in Hempstead from 1958 to 1983. "I still remember most of my teachers from then. If they are proud that the school is named after me, they should be proud of themselves."
Paterson, the son of influential Harlem political leader Basil Paterson, was enrolled in Fulton's mainstream class even though he was legally blind. He was among the first black students to attend the school after the district was integrated in the early 1960s, he said.
"It was the only school in the district that was diverse and it was a remarkable little experiment," he said. "It was an experience that helped us, black and white, for the rest of our lives."
Paterson graduated from Fulton in 1968 and Hempstead High School in 1971. He earned an undergraduate degree from Columbia University and a law degree from Hofstra University.
Paterson, a Democrat, was elected in 1985 to represent Harlem in the state Senate and became minority leader before being elected lieutenant governor in 2006. He took over as chief executive in 2008 after Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned amid a sex scandal. Paterson explored running for a full term in 2010, but abandoned his campaign.
His 30-month governorship included an acknowledgment of extramarital affairs, ethics probes and scandals that took down some of his top officials. Despite low approval ratings, Paterson managed to impose budget cuts, increase oversight for New York's authorities and create a new pension tier for incoming state workers.
"I took my education seriously and work real hard," Paterson said. "I had to overcome a lot of struggles racially and a disability. I hope it would mean a lot to the students that the person who the school is being named after is not perfect."
David A. Paterson through the years
1954 Born in Brooklyn
1958-1983 Lived in Hempstead Village
1971 Graduated from Hempstead High School
1977 Earned bachelor's degree in history from Columbia University
1982 Completed law degree at Hofstra Law School
1985 Elected to represent Harlem in State Senate
2008 Became state's 55th governor; served until Jan. 1, 2011
2010 Hempstead school district officials voted to rename Fulton Elementary School after Paterson
June 26 Fulton School renaming to take place during a ceremony and ribbon-cutting
Sept. 3 School renaming goes into effect
Sources: Hempstead school district; David A. Paterson; Newsday archives