The dynamics surrounding the disputed Hempstead school board race have changed -- for better and for worse. An investigation by Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice is a welcome development. But complaints by elected officials and local pastors that "outsiders" are attempting to influence the school board election are disingenuous and counterproductive.
First, the good news: Rice's office issued three subpoenas to the Hempstead school district and seized voting machines, paper ballots, notes, lists, logs, correspondence -- basically, anything related to conducting last week's election. For Rice, who has been aware of problems in Hempstead for some time, this is a big step forward. Allegations made by Hempstead residents of fraudulent absentee ballots and voter intimidation are serious and deserve the scrutiny the district attorney can provide.
Now, the lamentable: Hempstead Mayor Wayne J. Hall Sr. and others said they were tired of people from outside Hempstead trying to "pick our leaders" and that they want to solve their problems on their own. Alas, the district for years has been an intractable problem that no one within Hempstead has seen fit to solve. The 38 percent graduation rate in 2011-12 did not bring help or intervention. Nor did reports that the district changed more than 2,200 student grades, mostly from failing to passing. What's different now? The "outsider" involvement.
Groups like the Long Island Civic Engagement Table, New York Communities for Change and The Corridor Counts worked hard to increase awareness and bolster voter turnout, which nearly doubled from last year. With one insurgent candidate elected and another's fate hinging on the absentee ballot probe, the groups showed change is possible in even the most entrenched and dysfunctional school board. That's more than any of the insiders in Hempstead's power structure has accomplished.