Four runoffs for Broward School Board in wake of grand jury suspensions

Suspended Broward County School Board member Donna Korn is pressing for re-election to her seat.

The balance of power on the Broward County School Board is on the line — and who wins the at large seat up for grabs Tuesday might not be the person who takes the seat.

No other elected Board in the state has experienced quite the level of tumult this past year as the one that governs the sixth-largest school district in the country. One of the candidates that voters will consider Tuesday has been suspended from current service on the Board, and it’s unclear whether she would be suspended again if she wins Tuesday’s runoff.

Currently, five of the nine School Board members — a majority — are on the Board because Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed them. It’s mostly because a grand jury report recommended Board suspensions due to its finding that four sitting members had “engaged in acts of incompetence and neglect of duty” in failing to press for completion of an $800 million facilities bond.

That grand jury was convened following the 2018 Parkland school shooting that left 17 dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School. The grand jury’s study went far beyond the reasons why the shooter was able to go on a bloody rampage inside the school, however. Their investigation shifted to facilities improvements that voters authorized in 2014. And the alarm system at MSD was on that list.

At large Board member Donna Korn was among those suspended — just four days before she won the most votes in a four-way contest to fill her seat in the Primary. But her vote total was not decisive enough to avoid a runoff. The same was true in the races to represent the School Board seats for Districts 1, 5 and 6.

Korn, first elected to the School Board in 2010, announced she would press on with her bid for another term because she believes the Governor will respect the will of the voters.

“I do believe the Governor, in the past, on multiple occasions, said he will let the voice of the voters stand,” Korn told Florida Politics in August.

She has the endorsement of some of the big names in the Democratic Party, including state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, Jared Moskowitz, the Democratic nominee for Florida’s 23rd Congressional District, and state Sen. Shevrin Jones, who represents the Miami area, according to her website.

But Allen Zeman, her opponent in the runoff, says a vote for Korn will be a vote for another two-year DeSantis appointment on the Board in the Democratic stronghold. He’s raised three times the amount she has and his endorsements come from the Mayors of Coconut Creek, Coral Springs, Fort Lauderdale and Parkland, in addition to other local officials.

An inquiry to the Governor’s Office on whether he’ll act to remove Korn if she is elected has not been answered.

The DeSantis-majority Board last week considered firing the school district’s current Superintendent Vickie Cartwright, even though her tenure in Broward County began after the dereliction of duty found by the grand jury. She was given 90 days to improve on 15 criticisms, including leadership, judgment and decision-making, according to CBS Miami.

Cartwright, by then, will be overseen by four new Board members.

Other School Board races on the Broward ballot are:

— In District 1, Rodney “Rod” Velez, a community activist who has worked in construction, is up against Marie Murray Martin, a school district employee who is also the daughter of suspended Board member Ann Murray, whose term was set to expire this month.

— In District 5, Ruth Carter-Lynch, a member of the county Education Facilities Committee, is battling Jeff Holness, who runs a student tutoring business franchise.

— In District 6, Steven Julian, a master’s degree candidate at Nova Southeastern University, is competing against Brenda Fam, a Davie lawyer.

Torey Alston, who served in the DeSantis administration and became a DeSantis appointee to the Board, will represent District 2 for two more years to fill out the unexpired term of Patricia Good, another suspended Board member.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


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