South Florida Sun-Sentinel | By Lisa J. Huriash | July 14, 2022
CORAL SPRINGS — A governor’s appointee to the Broward School Board is trying to unseat an incumbent for a seat on the Coral Springs City Commission.
Daniel Foganholi is a Coral Springs design consultant who in April was selected by Gov. Ron DeSantis to serve on the Broward School Board. Foganholi is running against incumbent Shawn Cerra for the Seat 2 citywide race in the November election.
Cerra is a school district administrator who for years served as a school principal. Elected to public office in Coral Springs in 2019, he says he fields concerns from residents regularly, making appeals to city administration “to find solutions. I have a pretty high success rate.”
As a school official, Cerra drew public attention last November when the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported that he had stayed at a vendor’s house. The next month, the state Commission on Ethics received complaints about the matter.
Deciding to run
Foganholi was new to politics when he was appointed by DeSantis in late April to fill Rosalind Osgood’s seat on the Broward County School Board.
He also is the director of strategic partnerships for the Brazilian American Coalition, a nonprofit that helps Brazilian Americans, and he would be the first Brazilian-American elected to the commission.
Now, just a few months later, he said he’s going to stay in politics. Foganholi said he loves his School Board seat but to keep it in the next election he’d have to move to one of six cities in the district. “It would take a lot for me to leave Coral Springs,” he said.
Foganholi originally filed last November to run as a Republican for a Florida representative seat, which would mean back-and-forth travel to Tallahassee, but decided to stay close to home because he and his wife have a baby girl due in October.
There were two commission seats up for reelection, and Foganholi chose to target a city leader who is undergoing an ethics inquiry:That was “part of it but not the main reason why,” he said.
The other open seat, held by Commissioner Josh Simmons, who is serving as vice mayor, was uncontested. Mayor Scott J. Brook’s seat was also unopposed so he will be automatically reelected.
Cerra, a resident of Coral Springs since 1993, was elected as city commissioner in June 2019. In a recent interview, he said he’s eager to move past a state ethics inquiry.
A Nov. 19 news article from the Sun Sentinel shed light on how Cerra andSchool Board member Donna Korn had vacationed multiple times at the Naples area home of Chuck Puleri, whose company Chuck Puleri & Associates has been the district’s longtime distributor of Herff Jones caps and gowns.
Cerra and his wife stayed with Puleri at his $1.1 million beach house at least twice, in May 2019 and March 2021.
A resident filed off a complaint to the Florida Commission on Ethics that Cerra has directed principals to inform parents that their kids can’t attend graduations unless they are in Herff Jones caps and gowns. In April 2021, a Herff Jones representative sent an email to a principal titled, ”Herff Jones gown required to enter stadium,” citing Cerra’s instructions. It indicated students and parents should be reminded that a Herff Jones cap and gown were required to participate, for consistency, safety and security. The email said those with non-Herff Jones products wouldn’t be admitted.
Cerra said the issue of Herff Jones products has been taken out of context.
He said the district wanted uniformity and to go with their chosen vendor. “I never said a student would not be allowed to participate,” he said. “We have never held a student back. In the past, [for students in need], the school or the PTA would issue a gown. When I was at Taravella, there were plenty of kids who couldn’t afford stuff and I paid for it out of my own pocket.”
Cerra, was a social studies high school teacher and then the principal of J.P. Taravella High School for 14 years before his promotion to director of Athletics and Student Activities for the School Board of Broward County.
Cerra said he was interviewed by the ethics commission in the spring and, “I hope to have everything in the public arena in August and everything behind me by September. I am anxious to clear my name. There is no basis to it.”
Cerra, 51, was elected to the City Commission just months before the pandemic tossed the world into disarray. Among his top decisions: helping choose the current city manager and pushing for local vaccination sites.
He also has encouraged affordable housing and community improvement by approving Habitat for Humanity to build duplexes in the area of Riverside Drive and Sample Road on a patch of open land.
Foganholi, 36, said he primarily chose Cerra’s seat because he thinks he can bring a change in the “energy level and involvement.”
“I believe the city needs a new energy in the district,” he said.
He said the governor’s office is “very supportive,” he said. “I got well wishes from the governor” through his staff.