A Message From The Publisher
By Bobby R. Henry, Sr.
The Westside Gazette takes seriously its responsibility to endorse political candidates, even at the threat of losing advertising dollars. There are some media that can’t be bought. Our process entails observing candidates as they interact on social media and with various Meet the Candidate forums, as well as a carefully constructed questionnaire by the Westside Gazette sent to candidates.
Before sharing the endorsements, we are compelled to communicate our disappointment with other entities that have published endorsements. We understand that just as we disagree with their endorsements, these organizations may also take issue with those of the Westside Gazette. While the Westside Gazette does not have to justify or defend our endorsement, it is important to share a rationale why endorsees were selected and at times, why others were not.
Bluntly speaking, it is frustrating that in South Florida, one of the most diverse communities you can find, people speak about diversity and equity but do not practice what they preach when making decisions. The current School Board is a prime example. It lacks diversity in race and gender, and yet the decisions made by them scream the need for change. A white female school superintendent is being led by nine blind bosses, eight of them white women. When studying the picture of them, all smiling for the camera, it brings about a deep sadness for the students in Broward, as if a family portrait was taken and you were told to excuse yourself.
So, as the Westside Gazette considered who to endorse, our greatest consideration was for the students and families in Broward. It is important that both gender and race be considered as we reform and redefine the Board through selecting candidates to represent us, all of us.
In Broward’s majority minority school district, Black, Brown, and poor students live in communities throughout every corner of the county. They are not concentrated solely in District 5 or the 33311. For decades, however, it has been erroneously assumed that District 5 represents the Black/Minority community, and the sole Black/Minority Board member should come from District 5.
It is also important to make clear that being Black alone does nothing to ensure representation. Likewise, there are some White brothers and sisters who can be culturally conscious and woke, and they do so by promoting and ensuring equity in situations with students, families, and businesses. Solely being Black does not guarantee representation while solely being White doesn’t negate it either.
Superintendent Cartwright has faced harsh criticism because she boldly confessed that she would not hire anyone just because they are Black. Yet, she has clearly hired a good number of White people into well-paying promotions because they are White. Why else is Michael Walker an Executive Director in a position he did not apply for, interview for nor has experience in the work? Why else is Ernie Lozano an Executive Director when he only supervises one person in the department? Why else is Nicole Mancini a Chief of Academic when she hasn’t been a Principal, or even an assistant principal or had any academic curriculum experience outside of prekindergarten and kindergarten? Perhaps Superintend Cartwright believes that “all she needs to know about academics is what she learned in kindergarten.” You see that rule pertains to how you treat people and it’s obvious that it is not being observed here.
A great leader first leads in strategic silence. They observe and ask questions to determine the overall collective needs of the organization and then begin to bring in people and create initiatives that meet those needs. They do what is in the best interest of the organization, not what is in their best interest. This is Leadership 101, but Cartwright is determined to whither on the vine of stubbornness and poor decision making. Cartwright, if guided correctly by her Board, would not make such irresponsible decisions.
Now, as it pertains to school board endorsements. We believe the entire Board needs to be wiped clean. With all the corruption and Grand Jury inquiries, BCPS right now needs a fresh start. We are not endorsing any sitting Board members because as Dough Boy says in Boys in the Hood, “either they don’t know, don’t show or don’t care about what’s going on in the hood”. Simply put, they are blind in one eye and can’t see out of the other, coupled with deafness when it comes to the voices and needs of ‘some’ of their constituents.
With three seats not up for grabs this election cycle, there will be enough stability to take on new Board members in every available seat. Be warned, however, if the three remaining do not make the appropriate leadership adjustment, in two years your days are numbered.
This is the seat Ann Murray currently sits in. While Murray got a rough start with her N-word humiliation some years ago, she often worked hard to be on the right side of equity conversations. Yet, she remained silent in times when her voice was needed. Murray is not running for re-election.
The Westside Gazette has elected to endorse Paul Wiggins for Seat 1. Wiggins is not a politician, but rather a local pastor who is working hard to serve his community. He has no friends to reward nor enemies to slay. He is not in bed with anyone. True, he has limited experience, but name one Board member who currently sits on the dais who came with Board experience.
When Wiggins addressed the Board for one minute to challenge the approval of the Super’s Organizational chart, his thoughts were deep and caring for students, families, and employees. Wiggins has the capacity to learn and a pure heart and intentions to make the right decisions for the employees, students, and families in Broward. His character, integrity, disposition, and measured temperament are what the Board needs in this moment.
There is a lingering feeling that the Board is corrupt, and this has been substantiated by investigation after investigation. The Board needs a leader who they respect, and the constituents will believe is leading from the heart. We believe Paul Wiggins brings this to the table and over the long haul will be a positive influence on the Board’s image.
There are two candidates running for the District 4 seat that represents the communities of Parkland Coral Springs and parts of Tamarac. As we said before, we believe the board needs a total overhaul.
The Westside Gazette is endorsing Kimberly Coward. Coward has been an attorney for over twenty years. She has served our country in the United States Air Force and is a member of the Judge Advocate Generals (JAG) Corp. JAG is the military justice branch or specialty of the U.S. Air Force.
Coward has demonstrated that she is committed to fighting for issues of social justice and ensuing that the underdog has representation. Residents in the communities of Coral Springs and Tamarac do not feel an equitable level of representation in District 4.
Westside Gazette believes Coward will build on the very important work of safety but will also ensure that the District 4 constituents who reside in Coral Springs and Tamarac feel heard and valued. Additionally, Coward’s knowledge as an attorney will immediately serve the Board well on the business side of the house, and her serious disposition to the letter of the law will help to rebuild the public’s trust in the Board.
Senator Rosalind Osgood vacated the District 5 seat after a decade. District 5 is the most heavily sought-after school board seat with seven candidates vying for the nod, yet it also shows that those Black candidates running learned nothing from the debacle of the race for the late Congressman Alcee Hastings seat when there was no strategy or conversations between the nine candidates to put the best candidate forward. While the District 5 Board member does not solely represent the voice of the Black community, the reality is that it is the perception of most people. Therefore, while dismantling that perception, we must ensure we have someone who is ready and willing to get into the fight for what’s right with that responsibility while simultaneously working to share it with others. The District 5 Board member must have the courage to stand up to his or her conviction. The district is plagued with issues that need a soldier on the front lines.
Eight of the nine D and F schools are in District 5. The District is plagued with building construction and maintenance issues that date back two or three decades. Students in this District face harsher discipline that includes suspensions, expulsions and arrests that contribute to the school to prison pipeline. Reports are that administrators (namely Black females) in this District are targeted by the BTU.
The Westside Gazette struggled greatly between two candidates for this endorsement.
Nathalie Lynch Walsh is by far the most knowledgeable candidate of all seven. In fact, I venture to say that she is more knowledgeable than every candidate running for a seat, including incumbents.
Walsh struggles greatly in two areas: her ability to connect with minority students and families and her ability to form the relationships with her Board colleagues to get things done.
Walsh skirts around inquiries related to what she will do to close the achievement gap, and reduce suspension, expulsions, and arrests of Black and Brown students, as well as to hold the district accountable for addressing these issues. It is an area where there exists a gaping hole of weakness. She doesn’t appear comfortable in this conversation, and she has to be comfortable to represent District 5.
Walsh studies the Board items and addresses them with well laid out facts… but not without first sucker punching the Board members in the throat and reminding them that they are lowly incompetent beings. Time and time again, the Board delivers a vote in response counter to her input. Walsh doesn’t get that they are not voting against the item; they are voting against her, the warrior.
Antonio Burgess is the fighter we need for District 5. He is committed. He has passion. Burgess hails from the District. He attended schools in District 5. North Fork Elementary, Parkway Middle and graduated from Dillard High. He returned to District Five after college and taught at Walker Elementary, Lauderdale Lakes Middle and The Dillard High School. The work he does with the 5000 Role Models program further demonstrates his commitment to students and families in District five. Burgess, like Adderly, is young, but his youth is his greatest asset.
Burgess was inducted into the Broward Education Foundation Hall of Fame in 2021 and he is a member of the 2021-22 Leadership Florida Education Class 6. As a member of Leadership Florida, Burgess was selected to participate in a yearlong professional development with principals, school superintendents, and other school board members to study progressive educational issues in the state of Florida.
One of Burgess’s best qualities is his ability to engage others and build consensus. His consensus building ability is greatly needed with the other eight Board members to get the desperate help that is needed to close the achievement gaps and heal the hurts that have plagued the schools and communities of District 5.
The current board chair, Laurie Rich Levinson is not running for re-election. Brenda Fam and Steven Julian are looking to replace Levinson. The Westside Gazette has not settled on endorsing anyone for this seat.
Nora Rupert currently holds this seat and the Westside Gazette does not recommend that she is re-elected. Rupert has held this seat for more than a decade and has not played fair by the rules. Rupert is the Board member who brought Cartwright forward to be considered permanent for the Superintendent job even though it was in the rules that the interim could not apply for the job. If you want to know why we have Cartwright, you can point the finger of blame at Rupert.
The Westside Gazette is endorsing Mercydes Morassi for District 7. Morassi has demonstrated her fierceness in standing on principle and an uncanny ability to think for herself. Unlike others running for office, she does not linger in the middle on controversial, but important issues. She took a stand on speaking out about term limits for Board members and many of them becoming “career politicians”. Unlike other candidates, Morassi watches the Board meetings and recognizes that the behavior of the Board members is “out of control”. She sees the need for increased professionalism and a clear understanding of the Board’s role in running the district.
Morassi is a board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA), licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) and an adjunct professor of psychology. Her unique perspective will provide the Board with a closer connection to students and employees as issues around social, emotional, and mental health continue to be addressed. Too bad she wasn’t on the board with the Blind Nine; maybe she could have give them the therapy needed to make better decisions.
This seat is currently held by Donna Korn. It is crucial that Donna Korn not be re-elected to this seat. After her dismal performance with the North Broward Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta’s Connect and Elect, the investigation into her inappropriate dealings as a Board member with vendor, Chuck Puleri of Herff Jones and rumors that the Grand Jury report is not very favorable to her, re-election to this county wide seat should be the least of Korn’s worries. She has been on the Board for more than a decade and that is enough.
The Westside Gazette gave much consideration to this endorsement and considered a dual endorsement of Raymond Adderly and Allen Zeeman. After much contemplation, however, the Westside Gazette is endorsing Raymond Adderly.
Raymond Adderly is extremely deserving of this endorsement. While many people see his youth as a handicap, it is his greatest asset. Students are a school district’s primary customer and Adderly’s youth provides him with the greatest connection to students and their needs. If you want to be inspired, spend just 15 minutes with young Adderly. He has an “old spirit”. He makes you believe in impossibilities.
Adderly understands the issues as he served as student advisor to the Board while he was a senior at Fort Lauderdale High School. At times when Adderly spoke on controversial agenda items, you had to wonder if he was the lone adult in the room alongside nine juveniles. He was concise, clear and mature with his rationale. He does his homework and speaks first to what students need, first and foremost. His counsel of the Blind Nine was often the conscious of the district and a stern reality check for the pseudo adults on the dais.
While some see Adderly’s youth as a handicap, we see it as a refreshing asset as it is combined with intellect, passion, and unwavering commitment to serve.
If we were to offer a dual endorsement for the countywide District 8 seat it would be for Allen Zeman who admits that if he was not running for this seat, young Adderly would have his vote. The Westside Gazette believes that Allen Zeeman’s presence on the Board would make sense although we must give hope and youth a chance.