Broward schools

Broward School Board member Katie Leach resigns

Broward School Board member Katie Leach has unexpectedly resigned from office — a decision she officially announced through a Wednesday morning e-mail.

“It is with a heavy heart that I submit my resignation ...effective December 21, 2013,” Leach wrote. Leach said that her family is relocating to another city and “I need to focus my full attention toward them.”

Leach and her family are moving to Southern California, where her husband’s job is now based.

Leach was appointed to the School Board in 2011, at a time when the school system was still reeling from a critical grand jury report, and was in the middle of a search for a new superintendent. The board eventually hired Robert Runcie for that job, and Leach became one of Runcie’s strongest supporters.

A moderate Republican who is supportive of gay-rights causes, Leach had a solid base of support in her eastern Broward district. Faced with two challengers during the 2012 elections, Leach was the only sitting School Board member to win outright during the primary race, without needing to head to a runoff.

In her resignation e-mail, Leach said the district has accomplished a lot during the past couple of years, such as renewing Runcie’s contract, reducing Broward’s class sizes, and targeting additional funds specifically for classroom instruction.

“The past few years have been challenging and exhilarating,” Leach wrote. “I will always cherish this experience.”

Broward’s School Board is dramatically different from only a few years ago. The turnover was caused by a combination of members not seeking re-election, others stepping down is the middle of their terms, and — in two cases — those on the board being arrested on corruption charges.

Leach said Wednesday that her decision to step down was “100 percent” driven by the relocation of her family.

“That’s the only reason,” she said.

Gov. Rick Scott is expected to appoint Leach’s replacement. One hot topic he could ask candidates about: their position on the Common Core State Standards.

In September, Scott ordered the state education department to withdraw from a national consortium creating tests around the standards, though Scott didn’t dismiss the benchmarks themselves.

Many of the issues school board members face are non-partisan, but the debate about Common Core has become increasingly polarized and has fans and critics from both major parties. On Monday night, the Broward Republican Executive Committee passed a resolution against Common Core.

“I believe the minutes are going to say it was a unanimous voice vote and nobody was heard to say they were against it,” said party chairman Tom Truex.

Leach was one of only two Republicans on the Democrat-dominated School Board. The replacement picked by Gov. Scott, who is also a Republican, could offer a window in the governor’s views about Common Core.

Picking a replacement for Leach also gives Scott an opportunity to appoint someone who could help him score points with Republican or independent voters in Broward when he faces re-election next year. The county has one of the largest contingents of GOP voters in the state: almost 250,000 — plus 280,000 independents.

Like Scott, whoever is appointed to the School Board seat would also have to face voters next year.

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