Controversy, open races bring numerous candidates to Broward School Board races

South Florida Sun Sentinel | By Scott Travis | June 22, 2022

As the Broward School Board faces hot-button social issues, a grand jury investigation and the loss of long-time incumbents, many candidates have decided this is a good year to run.

There are 22 candidates vying for six available seats — three of which are guaranteed to go to a newcomer.

Most years, school board seats tend to draw an incumbent and one or two challengers. In 2020, two school board members were elected with no opposition.

Not this year.

The race for District 5, a heavily Black district in central Broward County formerly held by State Sen. Rosalind Osgood, has seven candidates, the most in one race in more than a decade. Two other races have four candidates each.

The pool of 22 candidates includes three incumbents, four candidates who have run for school board before and one candidate who is the daughter of a retiring member.

One factor that makes this year’s races attractive is that three seats aren’t being defended by an incumbent.

Daniel Foganholi, appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis to replace Osgood, is running for Coral Springs City Commission instead of the school board. Longtime board members Laurie Rich Levinson and Ann Murray are also not seeking re-election.

Interest in school board races has increased nationwide as issues such as school closures and mask mandates energized many parents during the pandemic. Hot button issues such as critical race theory and restrictions on LGBTQ content have motivated many conservative parents statewide to run for school board.

“From a national perspective, school boards are on the front burner for a lot of parents,” said John Daly, a moderator of the Facebook group Concerned Citizens of Broward County, which has been reviewing and endorsing candidates. “We’re in a situation in Broward where we’ve got these open seats, so it opens up a political opportunity for people who want to enter politics, and the school board is a great place to start.”

School board elections are held during the primary election Aug. 23. If a candidate doesn’t receive more than 50% of the vote, which is likely for some of the more crowded races, the top two candidates face off in a runoff held during the Nov. 8 general election.

Here are the candidates in each race:

District 1

Three candidates hope to replace longtime member Murray, including her daughter, Marie Murray Martin, 58, a reading teacher at Apollo Middle School in Hollywood. The other two candidates are Rod Velez, 51, who works in the construction industry and has been an active parent volunteer; and Paul Wiggins, 67, a pastor who serves on the School Advisory Council for Collins Elementary School in Dania Beach.

Velez is leading in campaign money with about $23,412, followed by Wiggins at $10,541 and Martin at $7,146.

The seat includes Hollywood, Hallandale Beach, Dania Beach and the eastern parts of Miramar and Pembroke Pines.

District 4

Lori Alhadeff, 47, who successfully ran for the school board in 2018 after her daughter, Alyssa, was killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, is seeking re-election. She has one opponent, lawyer Kimberly Coward, 47.

Alhadeff has a campaign war chest of about $91,000, while Coward has reported raising no money. The district includes Coral Springs, Parkland, North Lauderdale and Tamarac.

District 5

The District 5 seat was not scheduled to be vacant until 2024, but that changed after Osgood resigned to run for the Florida Senate in March, a seat she won. The seat is temporarily being filled by Foganholi, but he doesn’t live in the district and was ineligible to run.

Four of the seven candidates have run for school board before. Jeff Holness, 50, who owns a tutoring center; and Jimmy Witherspoon, 40, an academic adviser at Dillard 6-12, both ran for an at-large seat in 2020. That seat was won by Debbi Hixon.

Nathalie Lynch-Walsh, 53, a frequent district critic who serves on several advisory committees, lost to Osgood for the District 5 seat in 2016.

Ruth Carter-Lynch, 69, a longtime education activist, has run for the school board several times before, most recently against Osgood in 2012.

The other candidates are Antonio Burgess, 37, an instructional facilitator with the district’s equity and diversity department; Clifford Coach, Sr. 48, a Lauderhill resident; and Gloria Lewis, 61, a charter school facilities manager and former Lauderdale Lakes commissioner.

Holness, a cousin of former Broward mayor and congressional candidate Dale Holness, leads in campaign money so far with $14,500, followed by Carter-Lynch at $12,000, Burgess at $11,480, Lewis at $6,500, Witherspon at $4,550 and Lynch-Walsh at $1,100. Coach listed no campaign money.

The seat includes Lauderhill, Lauderdale Lakes and portions of Fort Lauderdale, Plantation and Sunrise.

District 6

Four candidates are vying to replace Levinson in the District 6 seat. John Canter, 45, a grant compliance specialist with Palm Beach County schools; Brenda Fam, 61, a lawyer and conservative activist; Steven Julian, 33, a Broward native who has been a wrestling coach at Fort Lauderdale High; and Merick Lewin, 36, who owns an advertising company and chairs the non-profit Take Stock in Children.

Lewin leads in campaign money with $52,220, followed by Julian at $43,535; Fam at $8,000 and Canter at $79.50.

The district includes Weston, Cooper City, Davie and parts of Plantation.

District 7

Nora Rupert, 58, a former teacher who was first elected in 2010, is seeking a fourth term on the board. Her sole opponent this year is Merceydes Lydia Morassi, 38, a licensed mental health counselor.

Rupert leads in money, $23,574 to Morassi’s $6,407.

The seat includes Coconut Creek, Margate, Deerfield Beach and parts of Pompano Beach.

At-large Seat 8

Donna Korn, 50, a commercial real estate broker who has been on the board since 2011, is running for re-election for the countywide seat.

One of her opponents is Raymond Adderly, who at age 18 may be the youngest person ever to run for school board. Adderly graduated from Fort Lauderdale High School, where he was class president and served as the student representative on the school board.

Allen Zeman, 58, a business owner and Navy veteran, is also running for the seat, as is Mourice Hylton, 37, a program coordinator with the National Scholastic Chess Foundation.

Zeman is far ahead of his opponents in campaign dollars, with $119,000, most of which is his own money. Adderly has $18,207 and Korn has $17,820. Hylton has reported no campaign money.

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