Mineola Board of Education Vice President Terence Hale announced his resignation from the school board at Wednesday night’s meeting, citing a demand filed by outgoing board Trustee Irene Parrino with the state education commissioner for his removal from the board.
Hale said the school board had been named as a co-respondent in papers Parrino filed with the state on May 22 that claimed Hale had sent “inappropriate” e-mails to board members in mid-April.
He said he was resigning because he did not want the school district to incur legal costs responding to the allegations.
“I will not allow one taxpayer dollar to be wasted on this frivolous action,” Hale said. “Therefore I have decided that it is in the best interest of the district that I step down as a member of this board.”
In a long statement read to a meeting room crowded with his supporters, a visibly emotional Hale called the e-mails “Terryisms” and without identifying their contents said they “had been misunderstood.”
He said his resignation would be effective at midnight, July 2.
“This is a sad day and probably the worst in my life,” Hale continued. “I have served you, the good people of the Mineola School District, faithfully and compassionately for five years as an elected board member.”
Hale said he had apologized in writing and verbally to his fellow board members about the e-mails and said it was his “belief” that his apology had been accepted.
Parrino said she filed the complaint against Hale the day after she lost her board seat to educator Patricia Navarra, who like Hale had disagreed with Parrino over the district’s heatedly debated reconfiguration plan two years ago.
“You had three years to bring something to this community and you failed. You failed and they voted you out,” Hale said in remarks directed to Parrino.
Hale concluded his statement by apologizing to school district residents.
“I’m sorry. I let you down and hope you will allow me to make it up to you,” he said. “A few poorly chosen words on my part makes me unable to continue to serve you as trustee at this time.”
After the meeting, Hale declined to specify what the e-mails said and called Parrino’s action “nothing more than a frivolous attack on my character.”
He added that he considered the e-mails to be “personal and confidential.”
Asked whether he would consider running for the school board again, he said, “Absolutely.”
Parrino also declined to provide details of what the e-mails contained.
“What he said in those e-mails was inappropriate,” she said, describing their content as “demeaning” and “derogatory.”
She said Hale’s e-mails to fellow board members included references to an incident at the Jackson Avenue School earlier this year when one boy saved a friend from choking on a carrot. She said Hale also made “demeaning” comments about district teachers.
In an interview with Blank Slate Media prior to the election, Parrino said some of Hale’s e-mails targeted her.
But on Wednesday night she said she was not criticized by him in the e-mails.
Mineola Superintendent of Schools Michael Nagler refused a request for a copy of the complaint under the Freedom of Information Law on grounds that releasing the information would violate personal privacy.
Parrino said filing the complaint against Hale on May 22 had nothing to do with her having just lost the election.
“It had more to do with the timing of when I had to file the papers,” she said.
She also said her complaint was not politically motivated.
She and Hale had been on opposing sides of plans for consolidating the school district, with Hale in favor of closing schools in response to the decline in student population and Parrino resisting the board’s plans to do so. Those plans have been implemented with the leasing of the Cross Street School and most of the Willis Avenue School.
Parrino said she brought the issue to the state education commissioner’s office after filing a complaint against Hale with the Mineola Board of education and receiving no response.
“They didn’t act, but I had no other alternative but to go the route of the commissioner of education,” Parrino said.
Efforts to reach her on Thursday to obtain copies of the papers she filed with the state department of education were unavailing.
A spokesman for the state Board of Education said copies of the complaint could not be released until the parties named in the complaint had an opportunity to respond.
She said other board members had told Hale to stop sending inappropriate e-mails before she filed the complaint.
Trustee Artie Barnett indicated that he did not believe Hale’s comments were meant to be hurtful.
“He’s Mineola’s own Yogi Berra,” Barnett said when asked about the e-mails. “They’re all meant to make people smile once in a while.”
“Board members have lots of communications and lots of conversations,” said board Trustee Christine Napolitano. “I feel terrible that such an incredible dedicated career could come to an end.”
Board President Will Hornberger, who had been Hale’s running mate in the pivotal 2011 school district election, declined to comment.
Several district residents expressed support for Hale during public remarks at the end of the meeting. And one PTA member made a pointed remark to Parrino.
“Your children are young and they have a long time to go in school in this district,” said Cindy Velez, a member of the Mineola High School PTSA. “I don’t think you want to see them bogged down with something that has nothing to do with them.”
Nagler said the board could either appoint someone or hold a special election to fill Hale’s seat.