Reine Duell Bethany - Author and Illustrator
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Hempstead School Board Mess

I have not been to a Hempstead School Board meeting since about 2002. I did not put my children into the Hempstead school system and did not give more than a passing shake of the head to articles in Newsday about contentious school board meetings.
     What I saw last Thursday, June 15, the last school board meeting before the year turns over on July 1 to 2017-2018, was embarrassing. The prime element evident was division, and I don't mean heated discussion among board members. I mean three board members and a new superintendent trying to hold a meeting while two other school board participated less and less as the evening wore on. Particularly disturbing to me was that one of those board members arrived 30 minutes late to the meeting and was loudly applauded when he arrived. He made no contribution at all to the school board discussion. When the public portion of the meeting began, two women behind me and many more throughout the large auditorium -- a crowd of at least 100 people -- began to yell down the school board members who tried to answer the questions. The yelling was prolonged, bitter, rude, and furious. I couldn't even hear the question that was being asked most of the time. When the question was answered, the questioner seemed not to understand the answer. One of the two mentioned board members essentially re-asked the question as if he had either not heard or not understood the answer prior. And anytime one of the three board members tried to speak, the yellers just yelled and yelled and yelled.
      The two board members did nothing to discourage the outlandishly childish behavior. The yellers were in support of those two, and those two made no effort to lead their supporters toward civilized behavior.
      Never in my life have I seen such anger and division except once -- in 1992, when the school district where we lived in Brooklyn attempted to introduce a "Rainbow Curriculum" that included giving very young children information about homosexual acts and sought to introduce as a textbook "Heather Has Two Mommies." The wrath that the many biological parents of children felt at being told that their own preference for information on sexual matters might be overridden, in kindergarten at that, did in fact lead to a fever pitch of a crowd yelling down a woman who tried to equate being homosexual with being Negro -- a comparison that angered many black parents.
     But that was a different case. It truly was. This past June 15, what I saw was a large crowd determined not to even let those in support of their apparent (very fuzzy) ideas speak into the mike; the yellers were spending too much time yelling at the school board members they obviously hated.
     There is no way our school district can possibly progress with this level of division present.

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