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Two new Hempstead school members sworn in at board meeting

Carmen Ayala and Patricia Spleen replace Maribel Touré and Gwendolyn Jackson, who lost their seats in the May elections.

Patricia Spleen, left, and Carmen Ayala, center, are

Patricia Spleen, left, and Carmen Ayala, center, are sworn in as members of the Hempstead school board during Monday night's meeting at Hempstead High School. Photo Credit: Johnny Milano

The Hempstead school board swore in two new members and appointed new leadership on Monday night, changes that will likely affect the dynamics of the often-divided governing body.

Carmen Ayala and Patricia Spleen replace Maribel Touré and Gwendolyn Jackson, who were president and vice president, respectively, and made up a minority bloc on the board and were defeated in the May elections.

Following the newcomers' induction, the board unanimously voted to appoint trustee LaMont Johnson as its president and Ayala as vice president.

Ayala originally had motioned to appoint trustee David Gates to the position. After Gates declined, Johnson made the motion to appoint Ayala. 

The appointments of Ayala and Johnson are a reflection of trustees' past vows to unify the board.

Infighting on the five-member board has been an ongoing issue, often played out at board meetings with verbal disputes between the Touré-Jackson bloc and members of the board’s majority — Johnson, Gates and Randy Stith.

The inability of the board members to come together has hindered the approximately 8,000-student system’s ability to move forward, Jack Bierwirth, a state-designated special adviser to the district, has said.

Bierwirth was appointed in September by state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia to the position of “Distinguished Educator,” with the task of reviewing and reporting back to her on the district’s operations, finances, curriculum and personnel.

In his April report, Bierwirth questioned whether the board members “have the capacity — or even the willingness — to work together on issues of substance for the benefit of the students.”

Following the May election, both Ayala and members of the board majority expressed a desire to unify the board. Johnson had described it as "a new day."

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