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OpinionEditorial

Indicted Hempstead school board member should resign

Every vote Randy Stith takes from now would be suspect. He needs time to focus on his defense.

Hempstead school trustee Randy Stith during a board

Hempstead school trustee Randy Stith during a board meeting on April 19. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

The Hempstead school board has been plagued for years by chronic dysfunction and turnover. Its conduct has contributed to Hempstead’s status as the most troubled school district on Long Island. So we are loath to invite more turnover, but we find we must.

It’s time for Randy Stith to resign.

Stith, who has two years left on his term, was indicted last week on charges of stealing more than $6,500 from the Hempstead Fire Department, where he was a volunteer, and forging a letter of recommendation to get a job with the Hempstead Village police department.

Charges of embezzlement and document forgery are troubling on their own for school board members, and particularly because in Stith’s case they involved public entities, just like a school board. Every vote he takes from now would be suspect. He needs time to focus on his defense, and it’s difficult to see how he can do that and handle school board duties, like dealing with the district’s troubled finances as outlined in preliminary findings of auditors that emerged Monday in a Newsday report.

Stith’s resignation would leave the five-seat board’s two factions with two members each. While it would be too late to include his seat in time for the May 15 elections, whenever he resigned, a special election should be called as soon as possible to replace Stith. If the board can’t agree, state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia should make the call.

The timing is unfortunate. A devastating state report in January said school board dysfunction was the biggest barrier to educating Hempstead’s students. With guidance from a state-appointed adviser, the board has been dealing with issues like crumbling facilities and poor security.

Hempstead’s problems require diligence and focus from all involved. Stith cannot provide that. He must step down. — The editorial board

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