Written by Rich Forestano Wednesday, 12 June 2013 08:18
Mineola School Board Vice President Terence Hale will resign from his post on July 2 under pressure from a soon-to-be-former colleague.
Trustee Irene Parrino, who was unseated by challenger Patricia Navarra in the latest school board election, served Hale with papers requesting the New York State Education Commissioner John B. King remove Hale from his seat. That would require state hearings.
Hale decided to step down instead—to save the school district the legal fees that a state hearing would entail.
“If you want to punish me, fine,” Hale said. “I stand alone between [Parrino] and the district I took an oath to serve and protect. I will not let you have your day at their expense. No Irene, not on their dime.”
Parrino alleges Hale made comments in inter-board emails that disqualify him from serving as a trustee. Parrino describes the content as “over the top and demeaning to every part of the community.”
She says she raised the issue with the board, to little effect, prompting her to contact the state commissioners office—which must be done within 30 days of raising an issue with the board itself. For Parrino, the resignation is vindication. “[Hale] said a lot of negative things,” Parrino said. “Obviously, he felt he had to resign.”
Neither Hale nor the school district will describe the allegedly offensive content. But Hale denies they warrant his removal. “Her charges do not rise to the level of misconduct that would warrant the removal of a trustee and only serve to distract this board and this district from its focus on educating our students and protecting the hard earned tax dollars of this community,” Hale said.
The school board could appoint someone to fill the vacant seat or hold a special election. Board President William Hornberger would not discuss the options. The commissioner’s office did not return calls for comment.
“[The board] didn’t act so I had no other alternative,” Parrino indicated. “He’s resigning because of what he said in his emails not for what I have done.”
Parrino alleged that a choking incident was discussed in the email. Nine-year-old Nicholas Ramos saved fellow classmate Steven Jones from choking on a carrot on Jan. 25 in the Jackson Avenue School cafeteria.
“He spoke negatively about a situation, specifically about a choking incident, that whole thing where the student choked on the carrot,” said Parrino. “He had some comments about that.”
Hale’s daughter Holli, who attended the meeting, said she was “appalled” and “disgusted” with Parrino’s actions. “[Hale] dedicated his time to Mineola and this should not have been the way he left,” she said. “She will never come close to accomplishing the things that my dad has.”
Hale has been active in the district community for more than 20 years, serving as treasurer and two terms as president of the Hampton Street School PTA. He was Mineola Middle School PTA president, 1st Vice President of the high school PTSA and two terms as District Council president.
“Terry Hale is one of the most honest and decent men that I know,” trustee Christine Napolitano said. “I feel terrible that an incredibly dedicated career would come to this kind of an end.”
Hale implemented the Presidents Cup and the Presidents Rap. In 2004, he was awarded the inaugural Carolyn Fiori Leadership Award. He worked for Fiori in the Nassau Region Nominating Committee.
“That, my dear Irene, is dedication,” Hale stated. “That, my dear Irene, is what it means to make a difference and be an advocate for all students, not just your own. That, my dear Irene, is what being a true stakeholder is.”
The question of whether board members are “stakeholders”—meaning parents of children enrolled in the district—was a major topic of discussion leading up to Election Day, and vigorously debated by Parrino and Navarra.
“You haven’t gotten rid of me, all you’ve done is aggravate me again,” Hale said, addressing Parrino.
Hale noted it was a “sad day and probably the worst in my life,” with tears dripping down his cheek as he addressed the 25 district residents at the Willis Avenue School. He has not ruled out a return to the school board in the future.
Mary Desiderio of Williston Park said she didn’t understand the decision and “wished it wasn’t happening at all” and would “miss that love and that pride I feel from you every time I’m in this room.”
District parent Cindy Velez had some choice words for the situation. “I don’t understand why our board of education will always have someone on this board that wants to bog the system down with [something] that has nothing to do with the education of students in this district. It’s the children that are important. And Irene, your children are very young and have a long way to go through this system, a long way. I don’t think you want to see them bogged down with situations that have nothing to do with their future. It’s a game and it’s ridiculous.”