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Fireworks mark Syosset school board meeting

Josh Lafazan, 18-year-old Syosset school board candidate that

Josh Lafazan, 18-year-old Syosset school board candidate that was overwhelmingly elected, speaks to the media at Walt Whitman Elementary School in Woodbury. (May 15, 2012) Credit: Chris Ware

The Syosset school board Monday night opened its meeting with the superintendent telling a teenage trustee that he spreads lies and has added nothing to the district.

The fireworks started when 19-year-old Josh Lafazan, elected in 2012, told the board it can't censor a resident during the public comment part of the meeting.

Carole Hankin, whose half-million dollar salary and benefits package has been singled out by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo as an example of wasteful spending, told Lafazan he was undermining the district's reputation.

"I haven't seen one added value from you in the district all year," Hankin said, blaming him for what she says is the district's bad press. "Every meeting I sit here and say, 'OK, he'll learn.' "

Hankin, 70, said the district has been operating smoothly for her 23-year tenure but added that it's been stalled this year because of Lafazan.

"We do an excellent job," she said. "The reason we couldn't do more this year was because of all the foolishness you've been doing. I think the boards in the past years have been fabulous . . . that's why we have reserves, that's why we didn't cut anybody, that's why . . . our programs are nationally known."

Lafazan, an outspoken critic of both Hankin and board members who he says fail to question her leadership, said he would not tolerate her attacks on his character.

"I'm not a liar," he said. "I speak the truth. I ran last year . . . to be a voice for the 6,600 students in this district. I'm not going to let you sit up there and say I don't offer any value to those kids."

Syosset, a highly successful district, has a reputation for secrecy, he and other critics have said.

Board president Michael Cohen praised Lafazan but criticized him for publicly airing grievances with the board, saying it feels like a referendum on his leadership.

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