HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Tempers flared again in a Long Island school district infamous for chaos, corruption and an abysmal graduation rate.
This time, the public is demanding that school board member step down after admitting wrongdoing, and there is push back from his fellow leaders, reports CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff.
A Hempstead public school board meeting was abruptly called to an end as a community member asked why Randy Stith, after recent guilty pleas “to forgery on an application and stealing” remains a trustee of the school board.
“I think they definitely did violate my rights,” said Sydney Daniel after officials wrestled the microphone away from her. “I didn’t have my question answered. There is no good answer as to why he is on the school board.”
HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? Watch 37%, Gusoff’s Special Investigation On Hempstead Schools
Daniel is not the only one calling for Stith’s removal after he admitted he had a forged recommendation letter to become a cop and stole $4,000 from his fire department.
He still helps run a $200 million budget in a school district with one of the lowest graduation rates in the nation.
“It’s been three decades of corruption, of nepotism, of cronyism, of backroom deals and failing tens of thousands of young African American and Latino students,” said Lucas Sanchez of New York Communities For Change. “We have folks who cannot be trusted to run a school district.”
Now petitions are circulating.
“We want him to resign,” said former Hempstead School Board member Mary Crosson. “He is a bad impression for the children.”
In a Facebook post, Stith implies he is innocent despite his plea.
“If anyone is wondering if I’m going to resign, I always say this and I’m going to say it right now, absolutely not,” he said.
In a district notorious for infighting, there’s now division over Stith’s future – the board majority finding it’s “best for the Trustees to work together as a whole for all the students of Hempstead.”
“As a steward of taxpayer dollars, it is imperative that school board members are held to a high moral standard,” said Board President Lamont Johnson. “When the public trust is broken the taxpayers have a right to respond.”
The state Department of Education says it has received no appeals on the issue.
On Thursday night, the Hempstead School Board issues the following statement: “The Board of Education has reviewed with General Counsel the issue that Trustee Stith pled guilty to two misdemeanor charges. On advice of Counsel, we have been advised that the office of Trustee Stith is not vacated as a matter of law.
The Board of Education has also considered this matter in terms of the best interests of the District. The Board of Education determined that, in keeping with its motto “Students First,” it best for the Trustees to work together as a whole for all the students of Hempstead.