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Opinion

Editorial: Hempstead school board should stop playing games

Deputy Superintendent Julius Brown at the Hempstead School

Deputy Superintendent Julius Brown at the Hempstead School Board's first ever 'State of the School District' address at Hempstead High School in Hempstead. (Apr. 6, 2013) Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

When it comes to secrecy and deception, the Hempstead school board has few peers. Alas, that's the only standard by which the board can be judged exceptional. It continues to flunk basic tests of openness and transparency required of all public institutions.

The latest example was the firing of Deputy Superintendent Julius Brown. Whatever the merits of his termination -- Brown was dismissed after publicly admitting last summer that the district was routinely rounding up final course grades of 63 and 64 to passing marks of 65 -- the process was lacking.

The board discussed his firing during the private executive session that preceded its regular meeting on Jan. 16, and all five members agreed to the termination. But a vote must be done in public, and no specific vote on Brown's firing was taken that night. A district spokesman said the resolution to fire Brown was part of the consent calendar -- a group of resolutions voted on as one when board approval is unanimous. But Brown's firing was not on the agenda given to the public that night and was not amended verbally at the meeting. So no one was aware the board was voting to fire Brown.

The spokesman said the board has nothing to hide. It is true the board met its legal obligation to put the resolution to fire Brown in the meeting's minutes. But it long ago forfeited the benefit of the doubt on matters related to secrecy and misleading the public. On several occasions, for example, it has called special meetings on controversial issues and failed to notify the public and media.

The district has myriad problems, including an abysmal graduation rate and continual turnover of top academic officials. These issues are best dealt with openly. "If there are steps we have to take to ensure people we have nothing to hide, we'll do that," the spokesman said.

The board is on notice. The shenanigans must stop.

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