For Broward’s school board, the mission ahead is twofold: improve educational outcomes for the district’s 258,000-plus students and restore public trust in a school system that repeatedly has been tarred by scandal.
With two board members voluntarily stepping down this election cycle, some new faces on the board are inevitable. But there are also three incumbents running — all of whom say the district is now headed in the right direction.
Criticism of the FCAT is common among the candidates, though state policy effectively obligates Broward to administer the test. Numerous candidates also stress the need for Broward schools to improve “customer service” and to make it easier for parents to become involved.
Out of nine School Board seats, five are contested in the Aug. 14 primary election. Here’s a breakdown of those races:
COUNTYWIDE SCHOOL BOARD SEATS
District 8: This race features two heavyweight candidates: incumbent Donna Korn and state Rep. Franklin Sands, D-Weston. Also running is retired school administrator Andrew Luciani, who hasn’t raised nearly as much money as his rivals but boasts a long history as a schools administrator, including serving as superintendent in suburban New Jersey.
Korn was appointed to a vacant Northwest Broward seat last year by Gov. Rick Scott. At a candidates’ forum held in Margate last week, Korn touted her experience working as a high school teacher and, more recently, in commercial real estate. A former elementary school PTA president, Korn said she is committed to proper budget oversight and will push for improved customer service if elected. Korn also said there are untapped opportunities for the district to partner with the local business community, particularly for specialized career training.
Sands, meanwhile, argues that his experience in the state capital gives him a distinct advantage. State lawmakers in Tallahassee are the driving force behind many educational policies.
Sands said he knows “how to access Tallahassee, who the players are. They know me.” Sands, if elected, promises to improve parental involvement in the school district, and like many other candidates, he wants to boost teacher pay.
Luciani said his extensive experience as a school administrator makes him an expert in “the business of education.” If elected, Luciani said he would fight the current emphasis on high-stakes standardized testing, while encouraging the creation of specialized programs to boost the population of underenrolled schools.
District 9: Longtime board member Robin Bartleman is the well-known (and well-funded) incumbent in this race. A former Weston city commissioner, Bartleman was first elected to the School Board in 2004.
Challenging Bartleman are endodontist Bill Barkins and retired school administrator Barbara Wilson.
Both challengers accuse Bartleman of failing to halt the district’s slide into rampant corruption and inefficiency: Two board members were arrested in recent years on bribery charges, and a 2011 grand jury report blasted the School Board for putting special interests before students.
Barkins said of the incumbent, “She knew of crimes, she kept her mouth shut, she did nothing.”
Chimed in Wilson: “Somehow, someone is not watching the store.”
Bartleman defends her track record, and says she confronted the board’s failings by strongly advocating for stronger ethics rules. For example, board members no longer serve on the district’s procurement committees, which are responsible for awarding multimillion-dollar contracts.