Broward School Board incumbents face challengers in August election

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - The Broward County School Board has a handful of seats open this election season, two of them with no connection to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Those in the running sounded off on issues affecting the county’s students and faculty

In District 1, incumbent Ann Murray has held the spot for nearly 10 years.

“Our performance is well, our high schools, our four high schools have a 94 percent graduation rate,” she said.

But Murray has some challengers in the Aug. 28 primary, including business representative Jim Silvernale, gifted advisory chair Veronica Newmeyer and teacher Natalia Garceau.

“People in the community came to me and said, ‘Jim, you’re a leader in the community, and we wanna see something different in the school board,'” said Silvernale.

“We need someone who has a background and the history to know what the true issues are,” said Newmeyer.

“There are a lot of issues in education, and one of them is lack of support for our students, especially students with behavioral challenges, emotional challenges,” said Garceau.

Over in District 7, incumbent Nora Rupert is facing Mike Olbel.

“I think we need forward thinking. I think we need a school board leader who not only engages in the community, but a community he can actually touch,” said Olbel.

“I promised to put more money in our classrooms, put the focus on teaching and learning, and we’ve been able to do that,” said Rupert.

Every candidate touched on a referendum that will be on the August ballot — a proposed increase in taxes to help with school funding.

“This money will be used for teachers’ raises, it’ll be used for our safety in schools,” said Murray.

Meanwhile, Newmeyer is offering alternatives.

“Starting at the top and cutting down administrative costs is priority,” she said.

Others said that, if passed, the referendum would bring much-needed money that could be used for important expenses.

“I will make sure it is done correctly,” said Silvernale. “I will make sure everything will be accounted for.”

“Think about the lives we can touch with more resources,” said Olbel, “and I think that’s what we need in District 7.”

Then there are other concerns.

“As a voter I say no,” said Garceau. “I don’t trust the school board, how they mismanaged the money. I don’t have faith in it. I say, why don’t you first resolve the bond issue?”

Garceau is referring to ongoing issues and escalating costs related to an $800 million bond referendum — one that was supposed to renovate school buildings.

But Rupert, current school board chair as well as District 7 candidate, defended this new spending plan.

“This time around, it is clearly in a pie chart, laid out, how we’re going to use the money,” she said.

Another candidate for District 7, Hubert St. Clair, couldn’t be reached for comment.

The remaining candidates have also ranked the job of current Broward Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie. It was a mixed bag of reviews.

Early voting for the primary election begins Aug. 18 in Broward County and on Monday in Miami-Dade. For polling locations and more information on the election, click here.

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