Almost two years after a state grand jury ripped the Broward school district for a culture of corruption — and only months after the revamped bus system gave the school year a bumpy start — the School Board is still in a phase of transition.
Superintendent Robert Runcie is only a year into his tenure, and the School Board is dominated by new faces, creating a new-era sense of optimism that the district can finally shed the baggage of previous scandals.
Voters on Nov. 6 will decide four board positions — two of them countywide seats decided by all voters, the other two races representing specific districts.
Here’s a synopsis of those races:
DISTRICT 9 - Countywide
Incumbent Robin Bartleman, first elected in 2004, touts herself as an ethics-minded reformer, though if re-elected she will become the board’s longest-serving member. Challenger Barbara Wilson, a retired school administrator, blames the current School Board, Bartleman included, for the district’s shortcomings.
A former teacher, principal, and district area director, Wilson’s goals include improving the district’s “customer service,” and promoting Broward’s high-performing schools and programs. She’s raised nearly $20,000 in campaign contributions.
As a principal, Wilson said she helped turn around underperforming schools.
Bartleman, who has raised nearly $75,000, touts her on-the-ground experience as a special education teacher and assistant principal. Through working in inner-city schools, and seeing children arrive hungry, Bartleman said she knows how important it is to address students’ at-home issues in order to achieve academic success.
To that end, Bartleman said she has advocated for counseling for students who need it, and a shift away from knee-jerk suspensions and expulsions — disciplinary actions that tend to disproportionately affect minority students.
Bartleman said she’s also pushed for expanding employment opportunities for disabled students, and she wholeheartedly supports the district’s recent trend of adopting unconventional new academic programs. A military academy that opened this year at Hollywood Hills Elementary has created a “buzz,” Bartleman said.
“We need to continue to provide that innovative programming that gives parents choices,” she said.
DISTRICT 8 - Countywide
Though technically nonpartisan, this race between board member Donna Korn and challenger Franklin Sands has a definite Republican vs. Democrat feel.
Korn was appointed to the School Board last year by Republican Gov. Rick Scott. Sands is a former Democratic leader in the Florida House of Representatives.
Korn said it would be a mistake to assume she agrees with the governor on every issue, and she criticizes Sands for trying to inject party affiliation into the race. Sands said Korn has benefitted from attack mailers funded by Republican party operatives.
“It’s a very partisan race, let’s be honest,” Sands said.
Though Sands led the minority party in Tallahassee, his eight years in the capital created lots of fundraising connections, and the nearly $140,000 he’s raised in campaign contributions dwarfs Korn’s total of more than $56,000.
Sands’ contributors have included his stepson Alexander Heckler — a prominent local lobbyist whose clients include a vending machine firm that does business with the school district. Both say Heckler will voluntarily refrain from any lobbying work at the district if Sands is elected.