Voters in Hempstead go to the polls Tuesday in a special school board election knowing one thing for sure: As bad as things were during the regular election in May, they're worse now.
One of the Island's most dysfunctional and poorest performing school districts has been reeling from an influx of hundreds of new students, most of them Hispanic, some of them from the border crisis. Dozens were not able to attend classes until last week, nearly two months after the school year began.
The inept initial response highlighted the need for a competent school board and the importance of the special election ordered by State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. He found allegations of voter fraud and voter intimidation committed by longtime school board member Betty J. Cross and her supporters in May's vote to be so troubling that he threw out her six-vote victory over challenger Maribel C. Touré. Now Cross and Touré are squaring off again. Monitors from the state attorney general and King's office must ensure there are no irregularities.
In May, we endorsed Touré, a Mexican émigré and frequent board critic who deplores racial tensions between black and Latino students. Touré says the notoriously secretive board must be transparent, accept input from teachers and parents, and spend wisely. Cross -- the former board president whom King ordered to step down in July -- is part of Hempstead's problems. Her tenure has featured indifference to poor race relations, hostility to parents and teachers, nepotistic hiring, backroom deals and high turnover of key administrators.
And nothing has changed. Her campaign of deception this time around is using photos of her with Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and Hempstead Village Mayor Wayne Hall; neither has endorsed her and both objected to the photos. Removing Cross is not a panacea for everything that ails Hempstead, but expecting the board to change in any meaningful way while Cross is on it is folly.
Five months ago, an energetic grassroots effort seemed to succeed in ousting Cross until contested absentee ballots were counted. Now the forces for change must rally again to reject Cross and her canard that it's only outsiders who want her deposed. It's time for Touré to join her victorious May running mate, Rickey A. Cooke Sr., on the board and start the long process of fixing Hempstead's school system.
Newsday endorses Touré.