Dysfunction Junction: The Broward School Board Story | The Daily Pulp | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida

Dysfunction Junction: The Broward School Board Story

The Broward School Board sold our children's future out to their lobbyist and construction-company friends, overspent hundreds of millions of dollars, and dug the district $2 billion in debt.

The board remains under federal investigation. One former member, Beverly Gallagher, is heading to prison after taking bribes from undercover FBI agents posing as construction lobbyists. The financial debacle they've created is now affecting employees, who are being laid off, and children, who are losing electives like art, music, and PE.

So are the board members on their knees begging for forgiveness? No, they're naming stadiums after themselves.

In a 5-3 vote yesterday, the board voted to name a new athletic field at Coconut Creek High School after longtime Board member Bob Parks, a darling of the construction industry and lobbyists, which finance his campaigns. 

Parks doesn't have much to do with Coconut Creek (he's mainly a Deerfield and Pompano guy) other than the fact that he strongly backed building the new athletic facilities there. He's basically being honored for his generosity in throwing our money around. The move to honor Parks was a slap to our faces, and there was no leadership to stop it from happening.

Yesterday's debate was typical School Board, full of dysfunction and outright stupidity. Most members played the role of lemmings (Maureen Dinnen and Robin Bartleman notable among them). One, Stephanie Kraft, said she wants to sell out schools to the highest bidder. Parks himself broke the rules by advocating on the dais that the board vote to give him the honor after he announced he had a conflict of interest in the matter. We'll get to all of it, but let's start with the real leader of the board right now, School Board Chairwoman Jennifer Gottlieb, who voted in favor of canonizing Parks.

"It is a process, and I do feel that this is allowed by our policy," said Gottlieb. "If they found that name fitting, I support the recommendation... I really think that for us to change up here what we feel the

vote of that committee was is really outside the realm of what we should be doing."

You see? No leadership. Gottlieb abrogates her duty as a School Board leader. She won't get in the way of a "process." She won't get in the way of some committee whether it's right or wrong.

Here Gottlieb admits that she's little more than a rubber stamp, which is exactly what she was while the lobbyists and construction companies were robbing us blind. Her campaign manager, of course, was lobbyist Barbara Miller, partner of megalobbyist Neil Sterling. So what do you expect? Will someone please step up to run against her? She obviously isn't up to the job.

Parks himself was pretty amazing at the meeting.

"I appreciate what everybody said today," he said on the dais. "I understand, again repeating that I was not involved in any part of it. It was the process. This is a great board. It does a lot of great things. I appreciate what you all did."

You hear that? He's sucking up to the derelict board and calling it great. These people spend a lot of time congratulating one another. It's another disgusting aspect of their nature. Parks went on to say that he had signed a conflict-of-interest form and wouldn't be voting on the measure. But then he couldn't manage to keep his mouth shut. 

"Coconut Creek High School did follow our policy and adhere to our requirements," he said. "I do consider it an honor... This board has done so many good things for Coconut Creek. Whether it's Winston Park, Tradewinds, Lion's Creek, Dave Thomas West, Monarch High School, this board has done well." 

Then he stopped, perhaps remembering that he wasn't supposed to lobby for himself.

"[School Board Attorney Ed] Marko said I could make a comment -- that was a comment -- that I have a conflict, that there's a perception. Anyway I don't want to go any further."

Yeah, you already went too far, Bob. And don't you love how he talks about how great the board is by naming off construction projects that the board funded with our money, many of them unnecessarily? They are off the reservation, folks, completely lost in their own self-importance.

Member Stephanie Kraft, however, announced she would vote against it. But not because naming an athletic field after Parks is wrong but because she wants to sell the naming rights to the highest bidder.

"I just want to let people know that I'm going to vote no because I would prefer that it go back to the committee to get naming rights for a fee," she said.

Member Phyllis Hope asked if that had been done before.

"We have a policy and a precedent on that," said Kraft.

Which field?

"Stoneman Douglas [High School's stadium] is named after Mr. Cumber, and he's alive, and his son who is an alumni paid to have the field named after him," answered Kraft.

"How much?" asked Hope.

"$350,000, but that was for the whole stadium," said Kraft. "I think our policy says we can name portions of things after people for different fees. Like for a press box, we could pick a number. There's nothing in the policy that gives a number for that."

"I wanted us to be cautious that we don't want to sell our school district," Hope said.

"I do," Kraft remarked.

Yes, Mrs. Mitch Kraft, we already know you want to sell the district. We know that you already sold out the school district to lobbyist Sterling (when you pushed his Vista health insurance contract) and developer Bruce Chait (when you helped Chait get a $500,000 break on fees from the board).

Hey, Stephanie, how much did Sterling and Chait pay your husband? Can you give us a number? How many tens of thousands of dollars came into your household because you cashed in on your office through your spouse? 

Imagine if Kraft got her way. Imagine the buying spree that Scott Rothstein would have gone on if given the chance. We could have had a "Wayne Huizenga Stadium" or an "Austin Forman Field" or a "Ron Book Press Box."

In the end, Kraft, Ann Murray, and Kevin Tynan voted against naming the field after Parks. Dinnen, Bartleman, Gottlieb, Hope, and Ben Williams voted for it. The only member who really stood up strong was Tynan, who ironically was appointed to fill the seat left by the convicted Gallagher.

Now if we can just replace the rest of them.

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman

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