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Editorial: Hempstead school fight needs resolution

Cheryl Jenkins, center, of Lakeview, a member of

Cheryl Jenkins, center, of Lakeview, a member of TCC (The Corridor Counts) joins in the protest outside of Hempstead High School on June 19, 2014. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

The wild school board meeting in Hempstead Thursday night demonstrated in one event everything that is wrong with the leadership of the troubled district.

Embattled board president Betty Cross arrogantly ended the proceedings and the auditorium lights suddenly went off at a meeting where demonstrators demanded her resignation and the head of the teachers union tried to ask questions about possible layoffs. Attendees had to leave the high school by the light of their cellphones.

Endangering the safety of the community is irresponsible, but this latest incident is unsurprising. Cross' intolerance for any view that isn't aligned with hers is well known. She is especially defensive now because her legitimacy as board president is in doubt.

Earlier in the evening, she had guards take the microphone away from Maribel Touré, whose strong election challenge to Cross may upset the balance of power in the district. Touré appeared to have defeated Cross last month in the bitterly fought contest until questionable absentee ballots were counted that tipped the results to Cross.

Last week, Touré and other activists filed a complaint with state Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. charging that Cross stole the election through fraud and voter intimidation. The Nassau district attorney is also investigating. Cross denies the allegation.

Cross' future and the direction of the district are now in King's hands. The commissioner is well versed in her disgraceful management style and incompetent tenure. Thursday night was just the latest example, but one that reveals how the tensions and divisiveness from the election will overshadow everything else that happens there.

King must review the evidence in Touré's challenge carefully but quickly -- or all school board meetings between now and the next election in 2015 will be repeats of Thursday night.