Hempstead residents demand special election for vacant seat

Hempstead community members petition for a special election

Hempstead community members petition for a special election to fill the vacant spot on the Hempstead School Board. (Sept. 19, 2013) (Credit: Danielle Finkelstein )

A group of 30 village community leaders and residents rallied Thursday at Hempstead High School to demand a vacant seat on the school board be filled by the community through a special election instead of being appointed by the four board members.

Critics claim that an election is necessary to prevent the board of education from making backroom decisions on the next board member without community involvement.

"The selection of someone to fill this vacant seat should not be entrusted to four individuals," George Siberon, executive director of the Hempstead Hispanic Civic Association, said at the rally held before the board's monthly meeting. "The community at large should be involved in this important decision."

Board president Betty Cross said at the meeting that an election could cost the district thousands of dollars. She added the district held a school board election in May.

"The money we could use in an election, we could use in our classrooms," Cross said in response to a written question from a resident.

Last month, the board put out calls for qualified candidates to fill the vacant seat on the five-member board, after advocates touted the recent vacancy as a chance to appoint a Hispanic board member and improve diversity in a district with nearly 60 percent Hispanic student population.

Cross has said the board would seek candidates from any ethnic group to fill the vacancy.

The deadline to submit a resume and cover letter is next Thursday at 5 p.m.

The board will review the submissions and hold interviews to fill the position, vacated in July when Hempstead Village Deputy Mayor Waylyn Hobbs resigned two years before his school board term ended.

So far, about three candidates have applied, district spokesman Nathan Jackson said.

"We want to know how they are going to select," said village resident Diane Goins, a member of New York Community for Change, a community group, before the meeting. "We know we want that person to be elected by the community and we're going to stand by that. Not to be selected by them, but elected by the community."

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