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Hempstead school board accused of community snub in trustee selection

The Hempstead school district has been systematically changing

The Hempstead school district has been systematically changing some students' failing final course grades into passing grades. (Jun. 22, 2013) Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

The Hempstead school district board of education has appointed a new trustee to fill a vacant seat, snubbing calls from advocates to hold a special election or appoint a Hispanic trustee.

Leonard Myers, a 50-year village resident who once headed the Hempstead Chamber of Commerce, was selected by a vote of 3-0, with one member absent, during Thursday night's meeting, officials said. Myers, 80, replaces former board member Waylyn Hobbs, now Hempstead Village deputy mayor, who resigned in July from the school board with two years remaining on his term.

"This appointment is not about me; it's about the kids," Myers, who worked as a stock and insurance broker, said in a statement Saturday. "The children need to be respected and to have respect for themselves. And I want to be part of any team that wants to get back to the basics."

Myers was not on the list of 11 people who submitted a resume and cover letter by the September deadline to express interest in serving on the five-member board, after the board put out calls in August. The all African-American board then held interviews in November.

According to the list provided by school district clerk Patricia Wright after the deadline, the individuals were: Rickey A. Cooke Sr.; Colette Eason; Melissa Figueroa; Tina Hodge Bowles; Patricia McNeill; Lorenzo Sistrunk; Doran Spleen; Randy A. Stith; Maribel C. Touré; David Ventura; and Rashid A. Walker.

Board president Betty Cross and Myers did not return calls seeking comment Sunday.

"That's insane," Touré, an X-ray technician and parent of a high school senior, said about the board circumventing the list. "It's like they keep slapping the community in the face and they can do whatever they want to do."

Advocates in August had called for the appointment of a Hispanic person because of the district's nearly 60 percent Hispanic student population. Then they called in October for the state education commissioner to order a special election to fill the vacant seat because they did not want the school board to choose a successor.

But school officials said a special election would have cost the district thousands of dollars. They added two Hispanic candidates were interviewed for the school board seat. Myers, the new appointee, is black.With Deon J. Hampton

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