New school board lineup shaped by DeSantis is ‘extremely disrespectful’ to voters, says union head
WLRN | By Natu Tweh | September 6, 2022
Governor Ron DeSantis’ appointment of five new members to the Broward School Board is “extremely disrespectful” to voters, according to the head of the county’s teachers union.
Speaking on the latest South Florida Roundup, WLRN’s education reporter Kate Payne and Anna Fusco, president of the Broward Teachers Union, talked about the recent changes to the body – and their concerns.
Last month Gov. DeSantis removed four school board members at the recommendation of a grand jury, who blamed them for “acts of incompetence and neglect of duty.” The grand jury was formed in 2019, in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High shooting. The governor requested the panel to investigate school safety and mismanagement in districts across the state. Their report focused on issues that predated the Parkland shooting.
WLRN’s education reporter Kate Payne said there was a bond project focused on school reconstruction that ended up taking much longer and costing more than the projected $800 million.
“This grand jury found that those five board members didn’t hold district officials accountable for what they said was fraud and mismanagement that left students in unsafe conditions,” she said.
The board is now made up of five men and four women, a marked change from the previously all-women board. The influence of the board has already been seen: Lori Alhadeff was nominated as chair, but while the four elected members voted ‘yes’, they were outvoted by the five DeSantis-appointed members. Torey Alston, one of the new arrivals, was elected as chair of the board, while Alhadeff was unanimously elected as vice-chair.
Fusco gave us some insight into her concerns about the newly appointed board members.
“First and foremost, they’re not elected, they’ve been appointed, and that doesn’t show representation of what Broward County resident voters have voted for,” she said during Friday’s show.
With just two months before midterm elections where voters will be choosing board members, Fusco added that it was “extremely disrespectful to the voters of Broward county public schools.”
Four of the five appointees will be out of office in November. Chair Alston’s term runs through 2024.
Fusco said she hopes the new board addresses pay for all employees in Broward County schools, as increases for educators and others are low according to her. She also wants them to take a deep look at security across the county.
In regards to the Parkland Shooting, she doesn’t think it is fair to put any blame on teachers in the district. “You know who they need to blame for the massacre? The actual person who committed the murders,” she said.
Reporter Kate Payne added, “Another concern as far as these appointments is their experience in education and whether they have the relevant experience in education and that’s certainly a question for folks, going forward, as they shape policy in the time they’re there,”
She pointed out the new members will also be influential in a budget vote later this month, while they could also be influential as the county adopts a recently-passed referendum over pay, security and mental health.