Long Island goes to the polls Tuesday to vote on school budgets and elect school board members. One of the most important contests will take place in Hempstead. That’s been the case for several years now, and the urgency continues.
Hempstead’s difficulties have been documented well — from its academic and financial problems to its nepotistic hiring to its lack of transparency and communication. But the district has been making progress on many fronts recently, due in part to the presence of two reformers on the five-person school board. Maribel Touré and Gwendolyn Jackson have been budget watchdogs and persistent questioners of practice and policy, and they have fought to move the board away from its tendency toward secretiveness and opacity. Now the other three seats are being contested, and it’s important that voters elect more reform-minded candidates so that a solid majority can continue the hard work of restoring the quality education Hempstead’s children deserve.
Voters should take a good look at candidates with reform tendencies, such as Melissa Figueroa, a passionate 36-year-old community activist and proponent of openness who’s been speaking up about budget issues. And Phyllis Pruitt, a retired Internal Revenue Service agent whose financial background would be a great fit; Pruitt already has stirred the pot with lots of sharp questions and findings as a volunteer on Hempstead’s audit committee.
Many important decisions loom, including the fate of Superintendent Susan Johnson. We have urged that she be fired to remove an impediment to real progress, and we still feel that way. A new board majority is more likely to get that done. For that and many other reasons, Hempstead’s voters should choose change on Tuesday. — The editorial board