Lori Alhadeff, candidate for Broward County School Board, District 4 – Sun Sentinel

Campaign website: www.LoriForBroward.com

Date and place of birth: 2-11-75 in Plainfield, New Jersey

The Legislature in 2022 passed a law (HB 1467) that allows parents to object to books they consider “inappropriate.” Do you support or oppose this law and why?

HB 1467 was one of the most controversial education measures passed into law during the 2022 Legislative Session. I do not support this law, nor do I feel it is appropriate for partisan lawmakers in Tallahassee to wrest control away from nonpartisan local officials like School Board Members. Public schools should not be pawns in the divisive culture war being waged by legislators in the State Capitol. Although I am very supportive of increased parental involvement in our public education system, I oppose banning books for reasons that I find outrageous I have to explain in the United States of America in 2022. Let me be clear: this is a regressive move which runs contrary to what I believe to be the primary pursuits of education, which are spreading knowledge and preparing students to think critically.

The Legislature passed HB 1557, which bans classroom discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3 and in higher grades unless it is “age-appropriate.” Critics have called it the “don’t say gay” law. Do you support or oppose it and why?

I oppose the homophobic “Don’t Say Gay” bill because there is nothing wrong, controversial or objectionable about same-sex relationships or LGBTQ+ Americans. Diversity enriches our state and Broward County Public Schools.

Define what you consider “age appropriate” for classroom discussion of sexual orientation.

Homosexuality is not something we need to keep secret from children of any age. I refute the suggestion by lawmakers who enacted the “Don’t Say Gay” bill into law that kindergarten teachers are somehow seeking to indoctrinate five-year old kids into gay lifestyles. They’re not. They are simply seeking to do their jobs by teaching children math, reading, science, physical education, etc. We need to respect them and allow them to do their jobs as professionals.

Do you believe that Florida schools try to indoctrinate students, and why?

No, I believe that Florida schools and educators are doing their best to create critical thinkers who will graduate with the life skills they need to be productive and healthy members of society.

The school district will ask voters to extend and/or increase an existing property tax that is allowed by state law subject to vote approval. Do you support or oppose this tax increase, and why?

I support this referendum because it will provide sorely needed funds allowing Broward County Public Schools to attract and retain top-notch teachers by paying them competitive salaries; hire more school resource officers; and fund mental health services.

What do you think of changes made in school safety since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School? What still needs to change?

After my daughter Alyssa was murdered in the mass shooting at MSD, I worked with the other families who lost loved ones and legislators from across Florida to help pass the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act. This bill was an important first step toward ensuring that no other families in our state would ever have to endure the kind of excruciating loss from which my own family will never entirely recover. While I am proud of the law’s many achievements, I feel strongly that more must be done to make schools safer, that we must allocate more money for mental health services and that we must fix the security issues in risk assessments. Also, we need to make sure our students are getting the services required in their behavioral threat assessment. I also think it is appropriate to highlight Alyssa’s Law, which is something I have spent a lot of time working on since 2018 and which I am proud to report has now been enacted in the States of New Jersey, Florida and New York. I intend to continue to advocate for this law to be enacted by other state legislatures across our country.

How would you assess the performance of Superintendent Vickie Cartwright?

I feel that Dr. Cartwright is starting to turn the ship in the right direction. I thought the organizational chart should have been workshopped first before coming to the board for a vote. It is still too soon to determine their full impact. I feel strongly that Dr. Cartwright should prioritize hiring a Chief of Facilities and fully implementing SAP Ariba, our cloud-based procurement platform.

Grand juries for decades have accused the district and School Board members of corruption or incompetence. How do you change that culture?

Sunlight is the best disinfectant. I believe increased transparency paired with public scrutiny (including from journalists at the Sun Sentinel) will go a long way toward changing the historic culture of corruption at BCPS. Greater parent involvement and community participation at School Board meetings are also helpful. It is my hope that the new 12-year term limits placed on School Board members will have a positive impact on corruption, but I also worry that term limits could have some unintended negative effects by allowing lobbyists and unelected leadership staff at BCPS to consolidate power since these individuals are not subject to any limitations on the amount of time they may spend seeking to influence education policy – ​​or enrich themselves.

How would you assess the district’s implementation of the $800 million bond issue that voters approved in 2014?

Due to mismanagement and a lack of leadership under former Superintendent Robert Runcie, the implementation of the bond has been a disaster. In many ways, this was setup for failure from the beginning because of a flawed needs assessment. I am pleased that AECOM is now taking charge and has worked with us to develop a plan to attain completion by 2025. My goal is to see this finished before the end of the four-year term for which I am now seeking re-election.

Do you support or oppose the School Board’s decision to defy Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order on mask mandates in schools, and why?

The School Board’s decision in favor of a mask mandate which neglected to include the opt-outs required by Governor DeSantis’ executive order was a violation of the law. That same executive order allowed for the Florida Board of Education to withhold funds from school districts which did not comply with its terms. As a School Board member, I am bound to respect the law and it is my job to advocate for as many public dollars for BCPS students as possible. For these reasons, I followed the official guidance I received from BCPS General Counsel Marylin Batista by voting against the mask mandate.

The governor advocates an agenda for school board candidates that emphasizes “parental rights” and “combatting the woke agenda from infiltrating public schools,” as quoted on his website. Do you support or oppose this initiative and why?

As the mother of two children who are currently BCPS students, I support the rights of parents to be involved in their children’s education and our educational system. That having been said, Governor DeSantis means something different than I do when we talk about this. Additionally, Governor DeSantis’ claim to be “combating the woke agenda” is something I view as an attempt to rewrite history. We should not be rewriting history. We must learn from the mistakes we have made as well as the injustices of the past and the present in order to ensure we do not repeat them.

Should Florida’s commissioner of education be elected or appointed, and why?

The Commissioner of Education should be appointed by the Board of Education because that is what is stipulated in the Florida Constitution.

PERSONAL

List in reverse chronological order each college or university attended with years of attendance.

Gratz College, 2001

The College of New Jersey, 1995-1997

University of Rhode Island, 1994-1995

The University of Long Island in Southampton, 1993-1994

List in reverse chronological order your work history for the past 15 years.

BCPS School Board Member for District 4: 2018 – present

President of Make Our Schools Safe in Parkland, FL: 2018 – present

Stay-at-Home Mom in Parkland, FL: May 1, 2003 – February 14, 2018

Health and Physical Education Teacher at the Windward School in White Plains,

NY: 2002 – 2003

Health and Physical Education Teacher at Union Township School in Hampton,

N.J.: 1997 – 2002

Have you ever been a party to a lawsuit, including bankruptcy or foreclosure? If so, provide details of the case and disposition.

Ilan Alhadeff and Lori Alhadeff, as Co-Personal Representatives of the Estate of Alyssa Alhadeff v. United States of America, Case No. 20-CV-60308-WPD – pending in the Southern District of Florida

Ilan Alhadeff and Lori Alhadeff, as Co-Personal Representatives of the Estate of Alyssa Alhadeff v. (1) the School Board of Broward County; (2) the Broward Sheriff’s Office; (3) Scott Peterson; (4) Andrew Medina; and (5) Henderson Behavioral Health Inc. Case No. CACE19008077 – pending in the 17th Judicial Circuit for Broward County

Have you ever been charged or convicted of a felony or misdemeanor, including an adjudication of guilt withheld? If so, provide charges, dates and terms of award.

No.

List current and former memberships in civic, fraternal or social organizations.

Sigma Delta Tau

Make Our Schools Safe

Why should voters elect you instead of your opponent(s)?

I have put my heart and soul into doing this job to the best of my ability for the last four years. However, my work is not done yet and my goal over the course of the next four years is to finish creating safer schools for everyone in our learning community. I will hold the Superintendent accountable to finish the SMART bond program. I will make teacher and staff pay a priority. I promise to always focus on students first creating a robust real-life K-12 education.

What in your life experience best qualifies you to serve as a school board member?

I think that my experience as a mom and teacher best qualifies me to serve on the School Board because it has required me to be resilient, flexible, creative and solution-focused. I also feel that my common sense has helped me a lot over the last four years. I call things as I see them and that’s not the norm among elected officials.

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