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Hempstead school board member Ricky Cooke Sr. resigns seat, district says

Hempstead trustee Ricky Cooke Sr. discusses issues at

Hempstead trustee Ricky Cooke Sr. discusses issues at an emergency Hempstead School Board meeting, Friday, June 26, 2015. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Hempstead Board of Education member Ricky Cooke Sr., who was elected in May 2014, has resigned, a district spokesman said Thursday.

Cooke, 57, who resigned Tuesday, did not give a reason for his departure, the spokesman said.

Cooke could not be reached for comment. His term was up in 2017.

The board's other four members may consider appointing another trustee or holding a special election to replace Cooke, board president Lamont Johnson said.

Cooke will be missed, he said. "In the short time he was there, I believe he made a difference," Johnson said.

A call Thursday to the school district's counsel, Austin Graff, was not immediately returned.

Cooke, an education consultant who has worked as a substitute teacher in district elementary schools, was elected in his first candidacy for the board, running as a team with Maribel Touré. He was the highest vote-getter in that election, drawing 802 votes.

A native of East Meadow, he was reared in Hempstead and attended the district's schools from elementary school forward, according to his biography on the system's website. While at Hempstead High School, he was a three-year starter on the varsity basketball team, it said, before going on to Hartwick College in Oneonta and Adelphi University, where he earned his bachelor's degree.

Some community activists who supported Cooke said Thursday that they were disappointed he did not fight for reforms they have wanted.

"Ricky ended up voting against a lot of things Maribel and New York Communities for Change were pushing for," said Lucas Sánchez, director of the Nassau County office of New York Communities for Change, a nonprofit activist group.

Sánchez said the board should allow the seat to remain vacant until school elections in May, when the terms of Johnson and JoAnn Simmons are up.

"The most democratic thing would be for the board to give the community the opportunity to vote in a replacement," Sánchez said.

Johnson said that he does not think the board is leaning that way. He said he would consult with the other board members. He said he does not "have anyone in mind" as a potential board member. He praised Cooke as an advocate for the schools who was very supportive of after-school programs.

Cooke and Touré were among seven candidates in the May 2014 election for two at-large seats. The second-place finisher -- Touré or longtime board member Betty Cross -- became a matter of dispute, with allegations of fraud, coercion and abuse of the absentee balloting process. Touré petitioned the state education commissioner, who ordered a special election between her and Cross.

Touré won that October election decisively. Cross denied wrongdoing in the spring 2014 election.


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