Parents Hopeful Over LI School Board Elections

Winners in the Brentwood School boards elections. Left to right: Julia Burgos, Maria Gonzalez-Prescod and Simone Holder-Daniel. (Photo via Noiticia LI)

[Below are excerpts from a story by Jennifer Bonilla]

The Brentwood school board election, which took place on Tuesday, May 16, was won by three candidates, Maria Gonzalez-Prescod, Julia Burgos and Simone Holder-Daniel. They represent winds of change and hope for a populous Long Island school district that has been affected by bad management and gang violence.

“We are a resilient Brentwood! Thanks to all for voting YES to the school budget and for electing me along with Simone Holder-Daniel and Julia Burgos,” said Maria Gonzalez-Prescod through her Facebook account. (…)

As they announced during their campaign, the new Brentwood school board members will focus on three main points: Improving the student’s quality of education, more and better distributed funding for the school district, and reforming property taxes.

The Brentwood election day went on peacefully and without incident.

(…)

[Below is a story by José Martínez]

The Hempstead school district, one of Long Island’s largest and home to a large percentage of Hispanics, continues to be a “pressure cooker.” Members involved in scandals and constant fighting caught on video and posted on social media, have not helped stop rumors from spreading in the township’s streets.

Yesenia Torres – not her real name – lives in Hempstead and says that she is astonished by the behavior of the board members. “You don’t know what to expect anymore,” said the mother of an elementary school student.

According to Torres, rumors about the school board’s problems have lead many parents to worry about the future of their children’s education. “If they, as adults, don’t act respectfully, how can they seek a better education for our children?” asked Torres.

On Tuesday, the rumors reached the elementary school as a vote took place in which Melissa Figueroa was looking to be re-elected while Randy Stith and Deborah Delong were vying for her seat on the board. [Editor’s note: According to News12 Long Island, Randy Stith (839 votes) defeated Melissa Figueroa (484) and Deborah DeLong (162).]

“We Hispanics need to help each other in order to be counted,” said María Coronado, a Hempstead resident. “Many problems need to be fixed and, if the same people stay on, things will never change,” she added.

Like Coronado, hundreds of residents came out on Tuesday to vote, amid a number of issues worsening the polarization already existing in this Long Island area, namely gangs and the arrival of unaccompanied minors.

Elise Damas, director of the Pathway to Citizenship program for nonprofit CARECEN, said that “it is important for school boards to address topics such as the arrival of these minors so that educational plans for them can be improved.”

Damas added that the number of unaccompanied minors who have arrived in Hempstead is in the hundreds, in a wave that has reached 3,500 in all of Nassau County. “They come here fleeing violence and seeking a better life, and education is a vital part of that process,” she said.

About gangs, Damas said that stigmatizing is a big mistake. “Not all children are gang members, and we cannot fall in the trap of making generalizations,” she explained.

For her part, Francis Madi, Long Island regional outreach coordinator for the New York Immigration Coalition, said that nearly 50 percent of all Hempstead students are of Hispanic descent, adding that “it is important that there is a Hispanic presence on the board to handle these types of topics.”

Osman Canales, one of Long Island’s best-known education activists, addressed the issue, said: “There are many problems affecting the school district, and I hope that our community will come out and elect people who really care and who want the best for our children.”

Canales added that the Hempstead school district needs to work to fix these problems and provide the best possible education. “If the people who are elected are not really committed to serving their community, the children will suffer. Latinos are a majority in Hempstead, and I hope that the Latino community will get activated and participate in their children’s educational process,” he concluded.

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