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Hempstead security choice is barely qualified

Former Freeport Mayor Andrew Hardwick was appointed to

Former Freeport Mayor Andrew Hardwick was appointed to oversee the Hempstead School District's security operations at the board's meeting last week, on the same day a parent and student allegedly assaulted a teacher at Alverta B. Gray Schultz Middle School. Credit: Howard Schnapp

How is it possible that Andrew Hardwick was hired to supervise security in the Hempstead school district?

Hardwick, 57, has no school security experience. Yet now he is responsible for safety in one of Long Island's most troubled districts -- a district that on the same day of Hardwick's hiring saw a middle school teacher attacked in school, allegedly by a parent and a student.

Hardwick's credentials, district officials say, include his 10 years in the Army, six of those in the military police; leadership qualities he exhibited in Nassau County's parks department and as mayor of Freeport; and his service as a volunteer firefighter. Board of education president Lamont Johnson, a former police officer, has better credentials for this job. But Johnson's background also means he should have known better than to advocate for Hardwick.

Johnson said Hardwick is the right person to train a staff Johnson admits needs more training, and praised new procedures Hardwick has pitched for clearing middle school visitors. But Hardwick's tenure as mayor was tumultuous and included carrying a gun, installing panic buttons to Nassau police in his home and office, and posting armed cops at village meetings -- to protect him from unspecified threats. He later was accused in court of violating state law by paying a worker for each petition collected in an attempt to run for Nassau County executive.

His most relevant qualification might be that he is a longtime ally of local Assemb. Earlene Hooper, which shows the district is to some extent still being run as a jobs program. Hempstead's board with Johnson at the helm has been trying to reverse a yearslong decline. But Hardwick's hiring is an unfortunate step back into the past.