Coalition pushes reforms for Hempstead public schools
By DARRAN SIMON, August 30, 2014 [Original article here]
A coalition of groups Saturday backed a strategy to improve Hempstead public schools that includes greater oversight of the school board, reduced class sizes and transforming buildings into community hubs when school's out.
"Our kids in this community come to school facing a lot of challenges, facing strife, facing poverty, facing difficult situations at home. There is no reason why the school buildings that exist in this community should be closing at 3 o'clock in the afternoon," coalition member Sergio Argueta of The Corridor Counts said at a rally that drew more than 70 people.
The 11-point "People's Platform" was unveiled before the May 20 election. The coalition now intends to present its plan at the Sept. 18 school board meeting as the district prepares for a new election.
State Education Commissioner John B. King ruled this week that the district must hold a new election for a contested seat briefly filled by longtime board President Betty Cross.
King ordered Cross to step down last month as he weighed the merits of the vote after challenger Maribel Touré accused Cross and her supporters of fraud, coercion and abuse of the absentee balloting process.
Touré, who attended Saturday's rally at the ABBA Leadership Center in Hempstead, spoke to the crowd in Spanish about the proposal to also use school buildings as after-hours community spaces.
On election night, Touré had 712 votes, compared with Cross' 691. Dozens of contested ballots were included in the totals the next day, putting Cross ahead by six votes, 719-713.
King, in his decision, ruled that the district must comply with monitors he will select to oversee the vote. The date of the new election hasn't been set.
The platform of reforms was drafted with input from more than 350 community members, including students. It also calls for a parent or teacher representative to sit on the board, more help for students and parents with limited English language skills, and other support services. The details of each recommendation will be finalized in coming weeks.
Hempstead school board president Lamont Johnson, who attended the rally, said he supports the platform.
"The campaign starts today to start pushing one reform at a time," said Steve McFarland, coordinator of the Long Island Civic Engagement Table, a coalition member.
Rally calls for reform in Hempstead School District
News 12, August 30, 2014 [Original article here]
HEMPSTEAD - A rally was held in Nassau today to call for reform within the Hempstead School District.
It came after the state's education commissioner nullified the results of the last school board election, mandating that voters head back to the ballots in coming weeks. As News 12 has reported, the commissioner removed Councilwoman Betty Cross from her position as president of the board following allegations of absentee ballot fraud.
Teachers, parents and community advocates gathered to demand a so-called "people's platform," a list of recommendations and reforms they say will turn the troubled district around.
The district has 60 days to hold a new election. It will likely take place in mid-October.
Advocates Demand Action from Mangano on Language Access
August 19, 2014 by Christian Bonawandt [Original article here]
A coalition of advocates stood before the Nassau County Legislative and Executive building in Mineola on Monday to demand County Executive Ed Mangano fulfill his promise to meet language access requirements for all county residents.
Executive Orders 67 and 72, which Mangano signed last year, required that language access, in the form of translated documents in the six most commonly spoken languages besides English and oral interpreters for all languages, be available to residents by July 30, 2014. But almost a month after the deadline, most agencies are far from compliant, and there are few if any plans in place to implement them.
Long Island Wins joined the Empire Justice Center, New York Immigration Coalition, New York Communities for Change, Make the Road NY, Long Island Civic Engagement Table, Haitian-American Family of Long Island, New York Civil Liberties Union, SEPA Mujer, La Fuente, and the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island at the rally.
“[Mangano] promised Nassau County’s 130,000 community members who are not proficient in English that language would not be a barrier when they needed help from county agencies,” said Cheryl Keshner, a paralegal at the Empire Justice Center and a member of the Long Island Language Advocates Coalition.
Keshner produced a report card revealing results from a testing program conducted by various members of the advocacy community. The report card tested a sampling of agencies on three specific rights promised in the executive orders: oral interpretation, agency plan for implementation, and written translation (documents and website).
Each of the five county agencies included in the test – Department of Social Services, Department of Health, Department of Human Services, Police Department, and the Probation Department – received failing grades on all fronts.
“Essential information, including crisis services for people needing mental health treatment, or emergency service to prevent foreclosure or eviction is only available in English,” said Keshner.
Janeth Niebla-Galaviz of the Long Island Civic Engagement Table and a Nassau County resident said language access is critical to her community and her family. “It means the difference between being able to access government services or facing thousands of obstacles seeking assistance in our primary language,” she said. She insisted that the failure of the county to fulfill its promise indicated that the county is “either not interested or not capable of implementing its own policies.”
Maryce Emmanuel-Garcy, executive director of HAFALI (Haitian-American Family of Long Island), said, “A law is not to be kept in a drawer. It is to be implemented.”
Emmanuel-Garcy said a language is a “lifeline” and that language access means more than translating the words. “It is translating the system.”
Language access is a necessity for the safety of Nassau residents, according to Maryann Slutsky, executive director of Long Island Wins. An agency like the Department of Emergency Management is becoming increasingly important, she said, given the sharp increase in weather-related emergencies in recent years. If this agency cannot communicate or provide information in all residents’ native tongue, she said, “Their lives will be in danger, and that will endanger the lives of other Nassau County residents.”
Advocates insisted that, since the singing of the orders, they have repeatedly offered to aid in the implementation in any way possible. Yet no one from any agency has ever reached out to them. “We have not been consulted, we have not received responses to our concerns… and we have not seen any progress at all,” Keshner said.
Nassau faulted on language services
August 18, 2014 by PAUL LAROCCO [Original article here]
Major Nassau County departments still aren't providing non-English-speaking residents with interpreters or translated documents as promised by executive orders signed last year, advocates charged Monday.
About two dozen people from immigrant rights and civil liberties groups gathered in front of county government headquarters in Mineola to call on County Executive Edward Mangano to ensure the implementation of the two orders he issued in July and August 2013.
Between chants in English and Spanish, the advocates said they recently tested several departments, including police, health and social services, and that in each case, a person seeking information in one of six languages covered by the orders could not be helped. This included a police employee failing to find a Spanish interpreter for a caller on a nonemergency line and a social services staffer failing to provide a caller a benefits application translated to Chinese.
"This shows without a doubt that Nassau County has failed to meet its own language access policy," said Janeth Niebla-Galaviz of the Long Island Civic Engagement Table.
Mangano's orders require that vital government documents be translated into Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Persian, Korean and French Creole, and require interpreters to be made available to limited-English-proficiency residents at the departments under his control. The orders -- similar to one signed in Suffolk in 2012 -- stated that those departments should complete plans detailing how they would meet those goals by last November, and would complete the translations by last month.
The administration said recently that it has complied with the orders, noting that documents would soon be online. But advocates said Monday that they have not seen signs of progress -- adding that Mangano's office has not made them part of the implementation process, either by meeting with them or by sharing the departments' language access plans.
In response to the complaints, Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin said Monday: "The administration began implementation of a language access policy for Nassau County. Both the departments of police and social services provide interpretation services and vital documents in six different languages. Other agencies currently provide telephone interpretation for the public and continue to progress with implementation of" the policy.
Nevin did not respond to the specific instances cited in the advocates' report, or to their complaint that the administration hasn't been responsive to them. The advocates said the issue is urgent because a lack of sufficient translation could affect a resident seeking lifesaving emergency housing, health or police services.
"This part of the community is being deliberately isolated," said Maryann Sinclair Slutsky, executive director of Long Island WINS, a nonprofit focused on immigration issues.
Crece interés por reforma de redistribución de distritos
Ya son 17 las organizaciones unidas por esta causa
7/17/2014, by Luis M. Mostacero [Original article here]
La conferencia de prensa fue organizada por miembros de la Mesa Cívica de Long Island, o Long Island Civic Engagement Table, una organización cuya mission es “construir poder politico en las comunidades de las clases trabajadoras de Long Island”, según Steve MacFarland, uno de sus integrantes.
Esta organización, junto a otras , han formado un grupo llamado ‘Coalición de Redistribución de Distritos Nassau Unido’, con el propósito de “mejorar el sistema de redistribución de distritos que existe actualmente en el condado de Nassau, y que sea justa para todos”, dijo Benjamin Van Dyne, de la Mesa Cívica de Long Island.
Uno de los anuncios en la conferencia es la suma de 9 organizaciones que se han unido a la coalición, llegando a un total de 17 organizaciones que trabajan por dicha causa.
Otro anuncio fue la carta que la coalición mandó recientemente a Joseph N. Mondello, Presidente del Comité Republicano de Nassau, donde lo invitan a reunirse con ellos, para discutir “prioridades en común”, con respecto al tema de los distritos electorales.
Benjamin Van Dyne, del Long Island Civic Engagement Table, nos habló más sobre el tema de la redistribución de distritos electorales en la siguiente entrevista:
VIDEO: Immigration Activists Set Sights on November Elections
June 30, 2014 by Christian Bonawandt
Immigrants and community members stood side by side on Saturday, June 28 to tell Congress that time has run out and that, come November, they will be held accountable. The event, held at Ross Park in Brentwood, commemorated the one-year anniversary of the Senate’s bipartisan immigration reform bill, on which Congress has failed to act.
Long Island Wins organized the event with Make the Road New York, Long Island Civic Engagement Table, Long Island Jobs with Justice, New York Immigration Coalition, and SEPA Mujer. It was part of a National Day of Action to stop deportations that are tearing families apart.
Many participants gave deeply personal accounts of how this issue is affecting their lives and their families.
Erika Brooks, another Brentwood resident, was brought to tears as she shared what it must be like for children to lose their parents to deportation. It is an experience she understands all too well. “I haven’t seen my mother in nearly four years,” she said. “I miss her touch. I miss talking to her.”
Participants were united in their message that the immigration reform movement was not slowing down. It is gaining strength with each day that goes by without action. And it will not stop until comprehensive immigration reform has passed, including an end to rampant deportations and a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented who are already woven into the fabric of our society.
These demands are “very reasonable,” according to Dr. Yousuf Syed, who spoke on behalf of the Islamic Association of Long Island, the oldest Mosque on Long Island. He explained, “All we are asking is that our rights be given to us in an honorable way.”
But emotions alone won’t bring about change, noted Marcy Suarez, a recent graduate of Brentwood High School. Still in her cap and gown, she argued that only voting could achieve the change needed. As the rally concluded, she joined other activists who spread throughout Brentwood to register new voters and make the community’s voice heard this November.
Brentwood Rally Launches New Phase in Immigration Reform Struggle
June 30, 2014 by Patrick Young, Esq. [Original article here]
The rally for immigration reform on Saturday in Brentwood is being written about elsewhere on this blog, so I won’t go into a description of the event or a recounting of the speeches. I just want to spend a moment talking about my reaction to it.
I went to the rally wondering if it was going to have the air of a funeral about it. After all, the media consensus is that immigration reform is dead. I worried that many folks would be so discouraged that they would not even bother to show up. When I got to Ross Park in Brentwood I was very pleasantly surprised. Dozens of people were there, many in their organizational t-shirts and carrying banners. It was a bright and lovely day, and far from looking like a group of mourners, the folks there looked like they were celebrating a family reunion.
No one there said that were giving up on immigration reform. They demanded that President Obama use his full powers to stop breaking up families through deportation and they insisted that the House of Representatives get to work on reforming our broken immigration system. Many people said that if conservatives hoped we would go away just because reform is extremely unlikely to pass this year they were completely wrong. Person after person told me that this is a multi-year struggle and that they will not give up.
I went to White Castle to get a burger right after the rally and I saw two young men circulating among the crowds of shoppers on Suffolk Avenue. They had just left the rally and were registering Latinos to vote as part of the next phase of the immigration reform campaign. At the rally I had spoken and I told the audience that CARECEN was providing free citizenship legal assistance which would allow immigrants to make their voices even louder in the national debate. Maryann Slutsky of Long Island Wins spoke of the importance of immigrant voting to gain respect for immigrant rights. Groups like New York Communities for Change and Make the Road will be doing a large get-out-the-vote effort to increase immigrant civic engagement even more.
The struggle for immigration reform was not buried on Saturday, it merely entered a new phase.
Advocates Call on Obama to Halt Deportations
June 4, 2014 by Christian Bonawandt [Original here]
“We are in the middle of a deportation crisis,” said Maryann Slutsky, Long Island Wins’ executive director. “This is a human rights issue and we as country have a moral obligation to do something about it.”
Patrick Young, esq., program director of CARECEN and a blogger for Long Island Wins, told Republicans to have courage and pointed to Long Island’s Rep. Peter King as an example of a GOP member whose standing with the party and his electorate has not been hurt by supporting immigration reform.
The press conference was held by Long Island Wins, Sisters of St. Joseph, Make the Road NY, New York Communities for Change, Long Island Civic Engagement Table, Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock, Centro Corazón de Maria Hampton Bays, and SEIU Local 32BJ.
Hundreds of other demonstrations took place throughout the U.S. Stay tuned to Long Island Wins for more information.
Voz y voto para todos en Nassau
Líderes religiosos se suman al llamado por reformas a la redistribución distrital en Nassau
Redacción Noticia | 6/4/2014, 6 a.m. [Original article here]
Llamándolo un asunto de justicia y principios democráticos, líderes religiosos y residentes de Nassau se reunieron en la biblioteca de New Hyde Park, para pedir un llamado de acción para arreglar el proceso de redistribución distrital en el condado de Nassau.
A raíz de los informes dados a conocer la semana pasada sobre la falta de acción frente a este tema por parte de la mayoría republicana en la Legislatura del condado, defensores de un proceso de redistribución justo se reunieron en el borde de dos distritos particularmente polémicos, el primero que se extiende por Port Washington y el otro a lo largo de Bethpage. Los presentes hablaron sobre la necesidad inmediata de arreglar un proceso que ha dividido a comunidades, diluido la representación de las comunidades minoritarias y aminorado los derechos de los votantes.
Varios líderes religiosos también se unieron al llamado y dieron a conocer una carta firmada por algunos miembros de esta comunidad en la que piden un “proceso justo, de sentido común de redistribución distrital que se base en el respeto, la dignidad y la preocupación por la unidad de la comunidad”.
De acuerdo a los líderes religiosos que participaron en la jornada para pedir un proceso justo de redistribución, las escrituras sagradas hablan sobre este tema, indicando la necesidad de que cada persona sea contada de manera equitativa, sin importar su procedencia o su posición social. “Le pedimos a la Legislatura del condado de Nassau reparar el Charter del condado y diseñar un proceso de redistribución distrital justo para la próxima década”, declaró la Rabí Judy Cohen-Rosenberg, del Community Reform Temple (Westbury).
“Estamos en terreno dividido aquí en New Hyde Park. El gobierno debe trabajar por las necesidades de los votantes y las comunidades, no por las políticas partidistas”, indicó Steve McFarland, coordinador de la Mesa Cívica de Long Island. “Por el proceso de redistribución roto del condado de Nassau, muchos de los usuarios de esta biblioteca comparten un legislador con Port Washington y Plandome. Otros tienen un legislador de Syosset. Aplaudimos el creciente número de líderes religiosos que demandan justicia para nuestras comunidades y para nuestra democracia”.
¿Qué es la redistribución distrital?
La redistribución distrital es el proceso mediante el cual se reajustan los distritos legislativos en una región específica para reflejar los cambios poblacionales en dicha zona. El mismo se realiza cada 10 años, luego de que se dan a conocer los resultados del Censo.
¿Cuál es el problema con este proceso en Nassau?
El problema es que actualmente este proceso es realizado por los legisladores del condado, por lo que en vez de reflejar los cambios poblacionales, la redistribución es utilizada por los oficiales electos para beneficiar los intereses del partido político que es mayoría en la Legislatura.
¿Cómo mejoraría la situación?
La situación mejoraría si la redistribución distrital es realizada por una comisión independiente y no partidista que garantice el derecho a la voz y al voto de cada residente del condado.
Editorial: 'Outsiders' bring positive change to Hempstead
May 27, 2014 by THE EDITORIAL BOARD [Original here]
The dynamics surrounding the disputed Hempstead school board race have changed -- for better and for worse. An investigation by Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice is a welcome development. But complaints by elected officials and local pastors that "outsiders" are attempting to influence the school board election are disingenuous and counterproductive.
First, the good news: Rice's office issued three subpoenas to the Hempstead school district and seized voting machines, paper ballots, notes, lists, logs, correspondence -- basically, anything related to conducting last week's election. For Rice, who has been aware of problems in Hempstead for some time, this is a big step forward. Allegations made by Hempstead residents of fraudulent absentee ballots and voter intimidation are serious and deserve the scrutiny the district attorney can provide.
Now, the lamentable: Hempstead Mayor Wayne J. Hall Sr. and others said they were tired of people from outside Hempstead trying to "pick our leaders" and that they want to solve their problems on their own. Alas, the district for years has been an intractable problem that no one within Hempstead has seen fit to solve. The 38 percent graduation rate in 2011-12 did not bring help or intervention. Nor did reports that the district changed more than 2,200 student grades, mostly from failing to passing. What's different now? The "outsider" involvement.
Groups like the Long Island Civic Engagement Table, New York Communities for Change and The Corridor Counts worked hard to increase awareness and bolster voter turnout, which nearly doubled from last year. With one insurgent candidate elected and another's fate hinging on the absentee ballot probe, the groups showed change is possible in even the most entrenched and dysfunctional school board. That's more than any of the insiders in Hempstead's power structure has accomplished.