Broward voters sent two new faces to the School Board on Tuesday, while returning one longtime incumbent as well.
In a fourth — and very close — race, incumbent Donna Korn appeared to hold off a strong challenge from candidate Franklin Sands.
With two seats up for grabs without incumbents, some change was inevitable on the nine-member board.
The tightest race pitted Sands, a former Democratic leader in the Florida House of Representatives, against Korn, who was appointed to the School Board last year by Republican Gov. Rick Scott.
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With all precincts counted, Korn clung to a small lead — paving the way for her return to office barring some unforeseen change in the vote tally.
In other results, candidate Abby Freedman bested opponent Rochelle “Shelly” Solomon for an open seat representing northwest Broward. Longtime School Board member Robin Bartleman easily held back a challenge from former school district administrator Barbara Wilson. And Rosalind Osgood handily beat opponent Torey Alston for the open District 5 seat, which represents many of Broward’s poorest neighborhoods.
Bartleman, first elected in 2004, has witnessed some of the school district’s darkest moments, including two fellow board members being arrested on corruption charges and a 2011 state grand jury report that blasted district leaders for “reckless spending of taxpayer money.”
She pitched herself as an ethics-minded reformer. On Tuesday night, she credited her victory to a track record of putting the needs of students first.
“I’m just grateful to the voters of Broward County,” Bartleman said. “I feel so blessed to have so many supporters and friends.”
District 5 race
Party affiliation may have played a role in the lopsided District 5 School Board race, as a group of Osgood supporters at one point made an issue of Alston’s Republican Party registration. Osgood denied any connection to the attack ad.
Alston may have also been undermined by his own supporters’ response to the ad. A political group tied to Alston created a negative flier that highlighted Osgood’s past drug addiction — though she says she has been clean and sober for more than two decades.
The ad, which Alston said he did not approve, even accused Osgood of being a former prostitute. Osgood is now a minister at New Mount Olive Baptist Church, and she said the ad sparked widespread revulsion in the district.
She could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.
With Tuesday’s School Board vote somewhat overshadowed by the U.S. presidential campaign, many Broward voters readily acknowledged that they were unfamiliar with all of the School Board races. Some voters responded by leaving that portion of the ballot blank, others said they picked School Board candidates at random, and one said she chose Bartleman simply because she liked the sound of her name.
Choosing based on party affiliation was a common strategy for voters trying to sort out the School Board races, even in northwest Broward’s District 4, where both candidates were Democrats.
Voter Robin Ravdin of Coral Springs said she chose Freedman, the eventual winner, because she more closely represented Democratic Parry “viewpoints.”
“I just voted more and more Democratic voting, that’s basically it,” Ravdin said.
Solomon did have a solid base of her own supporters, including voter Jaemi Levine, who ran for School Board twice herself. Levine praised Solomon for her leadership role in crafting Broward’s anti-bullying policy, and said Solomon was the more passionate candidate.
“She’s got every good intent in her heart,” Levine said. “She’ll fight for the kids whether she wins or loses.”
Freedman credited her broad range of experience — as a parent, former teacher, and business manager — with putting her over the top.
“It’s my diversified background that I believe people recognized,” Freedman said. “I’m truly appreciative of all the community support that I’ve received.”