The new candidates are Abby Freedman, Andrew Ladanowski, Robert “Bob” Mayersohn, Rochelle “Shelly” Solomon and Nick Steffens. The crowded field means the race will likely go to a runoff between the top two finishers in November.
(Another candidate, Louis Kushner, dropped out of the race, though his name will still appear on the ballot.)
Freedman describes herself in campaign materials as the “perfect combination” for the job: a mom and a teacher with a business background (Freedman manages her husband’s Pembroke Pines medical office). Freedman’s priorities include reducing the district’s spending on testing and transportation, and boosting the amount spent on classroom supplies and teacher pay.
Ladanowski, too, would like to see teacher pay go up, and he says he would look for cost savings by streamlining and modernizing various district functions. For example, Ladanowski notes that paper employee timecards are still used in parts of the school system. A medical business consultant by trade, Ladanowski prepared for his School Board run in part by taking some substitute teaching shifts, an experience he calls “a real eye opener.”
Mayersohn has long been active on various school district advisory boards, and as such says he would be best equipped to “hit the ground running” — an important quality since the winner will only serve out a partial term of two years. Mayersohn said he would strive to improve the school district’s communication skills, internally and with the community. Mayersohn said the board can support teachers not just on the issue of pay, but also by providing additional school volunteers or non-instructional staff.
Solomon, meanwhile, is campaigning on a platform of transparency. She promises to push for more of the district’s financial details to be posted online. She calls herself “really big on customer service” and said she would like to make students, parents, cities, and business leaders feel more welcome in the district.
Steffens, an attorney, has one of the most ambitious campaign promises: eliminating the FCAT in elementary schools, which is state policy. In the likely event that the state objects, Steffens said he wouldn’t rule out litigation on the issue.
Steffens’ track record as an attorney contains a blemish from last year, as the Florida Bar suspended him for 10 days — and forced him to refund $5,000 to a client — after the Bar found he failed to do any work for the client and ignored Bar investigators’ questions. Steffens defended his work for the client and said he made an error in not responding properly to the Bar complaint.
District 5: In a district that includes some of Broward’s poorest neighborhoods, the candidates for the District 5 seat stress the need to spread the district’s resources more fairly and get parents more involved in their schools.
The candidates here are Torey Alston, Christopher Hugley Sr., Ruth Lynch, Grover Monroe, and Rosalind Osgood.
Alston is chief of staff to Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief, and is the son of a Broward Sheriff’s Office deputy. Alston’s priorities, if elected, include expanding vocational programs, eliminating waste and corruption, and improving graduation rates for black male students.
Hugley, a Broward schools substitute teacher, says the school system suffers from a bloated bureaucracy, and he wants parents to take more responsibility for their children’s’ education. Hugley also complains that some District 5 schools aren’t maintained adequately.
Lynch, a political and business consultant, says the School Board needs to prioritize its spending better, and classroom instruction should get more attention. Lynch also promises to be an effective liaison to the community, and to speak honestly.
“If you want the truth, vote for Ruth,” Lynch is fond of saying.
Monroe, a school bus driver, vows to be an advocate for school employees. Monroe also said the school system should be less generous with the starting salaries for high-level administrators — at least until they prove their worth, he said.
Osgood, who decades ago struggled with drug addiction and was homeless at one point, credits education with turning her life around. Now a minister with a PhD in public administration, Osgood said she would bring “hope” to the School Board. While supportive of standardized testing, Osgood says the FCAT should not be the be-all, end-all in local schools, and schools should also teach general life skills. To engage families in this predominantly black district, Osgood said the school system should form partnerships with local churches.
“It’s going to take us coming together,” Osgood said.