Broward County has an all-woman School Board for the first time

For the Broward County School Board, 2012 has turned out to be the year of the woman.

For the first time in the school district's history, all School Board members are now women. Abby Freedman and Rosalind Osgood will join the School Board on Nov. 20, after successfully winning runoffs Tuesday, and they will join six female incumbents on the eight-member board.

"I'm excited to see an all women board, It's always exciting when women have influence and power," said Jeanne Jusevic, a Coconut Creek activist who serves on several district committees. "I'm curious to see what they're going to do."

Broward, the nation's sixth largest school district, is the only one of the top 10 to have an all-female board. New York, the largest district, has five men, five women. In third-ranking Miami-Dade, only three of the nine members are women. And females make up four of the seven members in Palm Beach, the 10 t h largest district.

Broward's newest board members say their priorities include learning the budget, monitoring for possible waste and corruption, and improving at-risk student achievement.

In addition to Freedman and Osgood, incumbents Robin Bartleman and Donna Korn won their runoffs. Katie Leach secured enough votes during the general election in August to avoid a runoff, while Patti Good was elected with no opposition. They join Ann Murray, Laurie Rich Levinson and Nora Rupert, who were not up for re-election this year.

Ten male candidates qualified to run for various seats, and two made it to runoffs: Torey Alston, who lost to Osgood, and Franklin Sands, who lost to Korn.

Board members said they don't expect gender to play a significant role in decision-making. The only male board member, Benjamin Williams, chose not to run for re-election.

While they're all women, they have diverse backgrounds. Two members, Leach and Korn, are registered Republicans who started their tenure as Gov. Rick Scott appointees. Osgood is African American, Good is Hispanic. Some are former teachers, and some have a corporate background. Most have served as volunteers as their children's schools. Osgood was at one time homeless and addicted to drugs but turned her life around and now has a doctorate.

"I think a diverse board, whether it's ethnicity, race or gender, brings value," Korn said. "But at the end of the day, we have a board full of women, and if we are all goal-oriented for the kids, we will be successful.''

Osgood, a minister and adjunct professor at Nova Southeastern University, said one of her priorities will be to address a male issue – low student achievement among black males. She has been attending meetings with Bartleman, Superintendent Robert Runcie and other community leaders about the problem. She also wants to get more churches and community centers involved in educating parents.

Freedman, a business manager, said her priorities will be to ensure teachers have a "salary that's commensurate with their hard work" and good health insurance choices.

She also said she's going to keep a close eye for corruption and mismanagement, which the School Board and former administration were slammed for in a January 2011 grand jury report.

"I have crisp, clean white laundry," Freedman said of her own background. "If anybody is doing something that is going to jeopardize the integrity of our schools, I will be more than happy to call them out on it."

Women have played an important role in the 2012 elections nationally. A record 20 women will serve in the U.S. Senate next year, up from 17. New Hampshire will become the first state to have an all-woman congressional delegation.

But most Broward School Board members downplayed the role gender played in their own races.

"When you look at the dynamics, the voters selected the persons in each race they thought would do the best job," Osgood said. "I don't think the possibility of having all women factored in."

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