Broward’s all-new — and all-female — School Board is now in business.
The remade board became official Tuesday after a swearing-in ceremony for six board members — two of them newcomers chosen by voters earlier this month. Surrounded by family and throngs of supporters, new board members Abby Freedman and Rosalind Osgood took their oath of office at the Dillard Center for the Arts in Fort Lauderdale.
“I called tens of thousands of people, personally knocked on thousands of doors,” Freedman told the crowd, recalling six months of heated campaigning. “I would like to thank each and every one of you for the confidence that you have instilled in me to embark on this journey.”
Also taking the oath were four incumbents: Robin Bartleman, Patricia Good, Donna Korn, and Katherine Leach. For the first time ever, Broward’s nine-member School Board is made up entirely of women.
Of those being sworn in, Freedman was the only one to not have her children join her onstage — today was a school day, and Freedman insisted they go to school as usual.
The ceremony was both festive and, at times, emotional. The hundreds who attended were greeted at the entrance by the boisterous sounds of horns blaring, thanks to a performance by some members of Dillard High School’s nationally recognized Jazz Ensemble.
Inside the auditorium, the board members took turns crossing the stage, one by one, for the formal swearing-in. Several board members cried — Good as she recalled the sacrifices her parents made when fleeing Cuba, Leach and Bartleman at the moment when they thanked their family for putting up with a board member’s demanding, hectic schedule.
“My family has sacrificed so much,” Bartleman said. “In my house, we have a routine, we wake up and my daughters say, ‘Mommy, do you have a meeting tonight, or are you going to be home with us?’ ”
Osgood, meanwhile, addressed the crowd with a spiritual vigor befitting her title as a minister at New Mount Olive Baptist Church.
“To God be the glory,” Osgood began. After expressing gratitude for her new position, Osgood led attendees in a group prayer. As her voice grew loud and commanding, she proclaimed, “We will change this community, one child at a time.”
From there, after all the hugs and handshakes finally subsided, board members headed east to the school district headquarters for a brief organizational meeting. The new board had a light agenda, consisting mostly of updating citizen committee appointments and selecting a new board chairwoman.
That honor went to School Board member Laurie Rich Levinson, who said she was “humbled and gratified” at being selected. As former Chairwoman Ann Murray passed the gavel to Levinson, Murray praised the school district for being headed in the right direction. Murray also took note of how female School Board candidates had dominated during this past election cycle.
“I always say, ‘Power to the women,’ ” Murray said.