Broward Politics: Is School Candidate Too Young?


Broward School Board candidate Sarah Leonardi, who is 29, knows the criticism about her age is coming. 

 “It is something I’m expecting,” Leonardi says. 

As Leonardi holds her campaign kickoff this week, the east Fort Lauderdale-based School Board District 3 race is shaping up as a generational battle:

Sarah Leonardi at rally against gun sales

The 29-year-old Leonardi versus the 51-year-old incumbent Heather Brinkworth.  

Brinkworth obviously has more life experience. Should that be a deciding factor in an election? Should a candidate automatically counted out because they are young? 


John F Kennedy was elected to Congress at 29.  Marco Rubio was elected to the West Miami Commission at 26 and the Florida House at 28.  And let’s not forget our local boy Jared Moskowitz, who became a member of the Parkland Commission at 25 while still in law school. 

Voters chose their ideas, not their age. 

But candidates like Leonardi also shouldn’t be chosen just because she is young.

Brinkworth’s deep roots in District 3 can only grow over many years. She actually went to high school, raised her family and lived in District 3 for years. She taught in District 3 public schools. She listens to District voters every time she leaves her house or goes to her children’s District 3 public schools.

Leonardi is a relative newcomer. She has worked at two schools outside District 3, which included a stint at Coconut Creek High as teacher of the year.

Although her work is outside District 3, Leonardi’s campaign is being fueled by insiders — supporters at the Broward Teachers Union, fellow teachers and folks she met through her political work.

Leonardi’s public participation has been to seek change. She doesn’t want to hear the phrase, “This is how we have always done it.”

The young like Leonardi want to try new ways. 

Old Ways Don’t Work

The old way obviously doesn’t work with Broward’s public school system. 

There is a top-heavy bureaucracy that can’t be trusted to tell the truth…about almost anything.

Superintendent Robert Runcie has trotted out phony excuse after phony excuse why he and his crew are not to blame….for anything. 

 Just one example: 

Runcie promised six years ago that school improvements would cost $800 million. Now Runcie and his crew admit it will cost an extra $436 million to finish the work that was supposed to be completed by now. 

Runcie blamed inflation for the cost overruns, which his staff never came close to anticipating.

Runcie failed in his estimates. Runcie failed in his hiring qualified administrators to supervise the improvement program. Runcie broke his promise to the public. 

And what has the School Board done? 


Runcie remains, unbowed and untouched.  

The flawed supervision of the bond issue is just one failure in the public school system.

Yes, Brinkworth and others have criticized Runcie. 

Yet in March, Brinkworth didn’t vote with members Robin Bartleman, Nora Rupert and Lori Alhadeff to fire Runcie. She instead believed that the members should first do an evaluation to detail his shortcomings in writing.

Still, the Runcie critics obviously aren’t effective, because nothing has changed. Runcie is still around. 

So 2020 voters just may believe it is time to replace every member of the School Board.  Replace them with challengers who are more effective. 

Throw all the rascals out!

A cry like that can only benefit challengers like Leonardi…regardless of her age. 


(There is a third person, Jonathon May, in the Brinkworth/Leonardi race at this point.  He has collected $4 to date.

Brinkworth has not begun her reelection campaign yet. Leonardi has scheduled her campaign kickoff this week.)

The flyer contains an interesting mix of old and new Broward political figures. Jennifer Gottlieb is a former School Board member. Emma Collum, who is part of the new progressive wing of the Democratic Party, recently ran a Democratic race for the House in east Fort Lauderdale and lost. Barbara Miller is a veteran Broward political consultant. Andrew Dolberg, another young Democrat, recently lost a state House race in Central Broward. Joshua Simmons is a first term Coral Springs Commissioner and a teacher. Sabrina Javellana is a Hallandale Beach Commissioner who supports progressive Democratic causes. And Joe Recchi, a teacher, is the son of the late and beloved Sun-Sentinel columnist Ray Recchi.

22 Responses to “Broward Politics: Is School Candidate Too Young?”

  1. Charlotte Greenbarg says:

    Jennifer Gottlieb? Really? Barbara Miller? The old guard. Not much idea of new

  2. Not Jen Jen Again! says:

    A relative newcomer? She didn’t even know enough to keep…. Jennifer Gottlieb off her invitation. Honorable? That’s rich.


    Gottlieb quit the School Board in 2011 after a Grand Jury report was released.

    NBC News wrote: “Though not identified by name, she was criticized in the state grand jury report for pushing the construction of Beachside Montessori School Village in Hollywood, now attended by one of her sons.
    In the report, which did not accuse Gottlieb of any wrongdoing, the $25 million magnet school was termed a “beachside boondoggle.”
    “Beachside cost the taxpayers over $25 million, including over $6 million in land acquisition, displaced dozens of residents, razed almost all of a local community park, and [was] built in an area and a time where there was an abundance of empty elementary and middle school seats,” read the grand jury report, referring to the project as “a microcosm of everything that’s wrong with the board and district.”

    There was also an earlier report by FDLE accusing her of having an affair with a lobbyist.

  3. City activist Robert Walsh says:

    My take.

    First get out there and knock on those doors in this district.

    Go to the district neighborhood HOA’s( they vote).

    Now till election attend as many school board meetings as possible.Pull items off agenda that concern this district.Make sure these voters in this district know that u r on their side.Come across that u r one of them and that u want to serve and help them.

    Good luck to her..Oh this next election in 2020 esp. in Ft.Lau where no Primary and winner take all..Plus Presidential election on the ballot to boot.This is going to be a huge turn out.Im ready,how about you??

  4. Lines drawn says:

    Good to know Barbara Miller is in bed with the Parkland crowd tonoust Runcie. I hear she is working for Sheriff Toney as well. Maybe Brinkworth should remind everyone the last time Miller had influcne at the SB it resulted in a grand jury investigation that had interesting things to say about Miller and her pal Neil Sterling.

  5. Chaz Stevens, Flatulist says:

    $4 to date? Dude can’t even score a Starbuck’s latte.

    Someone toss his (pun!) a fiver, double his net worth.


    I must admit Chaz, you are humorous!!!!

  6. We know What's Right says:

    No candidate is too young if they meet legal qualifications. The voters can pick anyone. There are plenty of old fools who got elected to the school board and were a waste. One guy couldn’t even stay awake and Murray is awake but hardly there now.

  7. Anonymous says:

    @1 and @2:
    She is running, not Gottlieb or Miller.

  8. All that glitters... says:

    some people take a host committee for a fundraiser way too seriously. It’s a list of people who the candidate has gone to for support and the candidate is hopeful they will make a contribution and send the invite to others. That’s it. She’s not running for President, or US Senate. They’re not making some massive commitment or meeting as an actual committee to work together on anything.

    As for Jennifer Gottlieb, a report did not accuse her of having an affair with a lobbyist. It flat out stated that she had…affairs.

    And speaking of school board candidates and Gottlieb, she and Barbra Miller will have to take the night away from Debbie Hixon to make it to this campaign fundraiser….They’re parading this pitiful woman all over the place trying to turn her into the next Robin Bartleman…


    Okay, enough about Jennifer Gottlieb. You and other anonymous readers hiding behind phony names made your point.

    What you do to folks who have an affair: Put them in a stockade? Force them to wear a big “A” on their clothes? Banish them from public view for the rest of their lives?

    Is there no forgiveness in your hearts?

    If you ban anybody who has an affair from politics, there would be darn few candidates eligible to run.

    It is also very telling that almost all the politicians who are publicly accused of adultery are women. Men — I know of at least one male office holder who had children out of wedlock and several others who were almost open about being unable to keep it in their pants! One openly talked about sleeping with two Broward School Board members during the same time period they were selling services to the Board. — seem to often get a pass by the media. Needless to say, most of these breathless stories about women are also “investigated” and written by men.

    Ms. Gottlieb made a mistake by having affairs lobbyists doing business with the School Board.

    But she was never charged with any crime whatsoever. Let me repeat that: Jennifer Gottlieb was never charged with anything, whatsoever, after intensive investigations of her actions.

    If felons now have the right to participate in politics, doesn’t Ms. Gottlieb have the right to be on a host committee of a School Board candidate?

  9. Frank says:

    All I see are a bunch of loser Denocrats who couldn’t even win their races in Deep Blue Broward, and a washed up old timer who hasn’t won a competitive race since Jesus lost to Pontius Pilate!

  10. Demicat says:

    @7 – This candidate respects them enough to list them and even referred to one as honorable. That speaks volumes about her judgement or lack there of.

  11. Poundcake says:

    I have lived in Oakland Park my whole life and I am glad to have Heather Brinkworth as my school board member. Heather has represented us well and is well respected in our community.
    I went to Northeast High School and my kids will hopefully go there too. Heather and Mayor Lonergan fought hard to get not just a renovation but a rebuild for much of Northeast High School which is what the kids deserve. When Gottlieb was on the board she wasted millions of dollars on building a school in Hollywood and then blocked the neighborhood from attending it. I don’t want northeast to finally get rebuilt and my kids can’t go there. We are sticking with Heather Brinkworth!

  12. Vice Mayor Sabrina Javellana says:

    I’m the youngest elected official in the history of Broward County at 21. Voters know if we’re young and running we’re passionate, well-intentioned, and not without having done our homework on all aspects of the role we are seeking. It has been long enough since we had younger representation as well as from a public school teacher who works firsthand everyday with the students that the Board serves. I haven’t seen or heard anything from my own district’s school board member since early voting. Sarah will be independent, fair, and a fierce advocate on the Board.


  13. Deborah Davis says:

    Now I know who to thank for Runcie still having his job. From what I’ve seen Sarah Leonardi is a smart and talented woman. She has the support of her peers and the teachers union and I think she’ll be the change we need.


    I feel compelled to note that the Broward Teachers Union and their leader Anna Fusco have a love/hate relationship with Runcie. Fusco has publicly supported Runcie at key moments of his tenure, such as opposing removing him earlier this year. Fusco said when Runcie was seeking a raise two years ago: “Mr Runcie has made great strides in helping out our Broward County Public Schools. I think his leadership has really bloomed since since he started here seven years ago.”

  14. Julie Morrall says:

    Sarah Leonardi is hard working, smart, compassionate and no nonsense. There is no doubt in my mind that she will work extremely hard, as well as smart, to make the Broward School district respectable once again.

  15. Chaz Stevens, Flatulist says:


    Oscar Wilde once opined he was not young enough to know everything.

    Five years ago, you had a learner’s permit.

  16. City activist Robert Walsh says:

    Speaking about Broward politics etc.Every commissioner with the exception of Comm.McKenzie has filed the paperwork to run for re-election.That includes current mayor Dean Trantalis.Myself I meet with the city clerk in July and will finalize my canidacy after Labor Day.

  17. Broward Schools Parent says:

    I was excited to see a Democrat running until I read this blog and learned of her positions and decided not to attend this fundraiser. I am tired of all the noise and criticisms of the School Board and the Administration.

    Under this superintendant, schools have dramatically improved their school grade ratings.
    Recently published:
    In 2019 BCPS earned a District grade of “B,” narrowly missing an “A” by one percentage point. For the first time since the state adopted the new school grade model in 2014/15, BCPS has no traditional schools that received an “F” grade.
    Among the 2019 highlights:

    Sixty-nine (33%) of BCPS traditional schools earned an “A” grade in 2018/19
    Fifty-one schools (24%) improved their grade from 2017/18
    Nine out of ten of BCPS traditional schools that received a “D” or “F” in 2017/18, improved to a “C” grade in 2018/19
    Four schools increased by two or more letter grades
    Among the largest five districts in the state, BCPS made the greatest percentage increase in “A” and “B” schools

    The purpose of our schools is to educate, and say what you want about the District they are achieving their main purpose.

  18. Charlotte Greenbarg says:

    Accused of having an affair with a lobbyist? No, it was proven. Beachside was a scandal that everyone on the board preferred to ignore A candidate who lists the old guard as supporters should not be seriously considered

  19. Chaz Stevens, Flatulist says:


    Isn’t that Bring A Felon To Work Day? How convenient for you!

  20. Springs Dem says:

    Joshua Simmons is a teacher, not a lawyer.


    Right you are. Thank you for pointing out my mistake. I corrected it.

  21. Sean Phillippi says:

    I have had the privilege to get to know Jennifer Gottlieb over the past handful of years and I can say, unequivocally, that she is an amazing person. I am very fortunate to be able to call her a friend! I am not saying she is perfect, and I am not saying that she hasn’t made mistakes, but anyone who has Jen as a part of their lives is much better for it. I will happily stand by her side any day, and I know I am not alone. So, if any of you keyboard warriors have the guts to come out of hiding to take her on know that you will be taking me on first!!!!!

  22. Chaz Stevens, Flatulist says:


    I’m presuming you’ll be “taking them on” in a non-intellectual or non-athletic basis … perhaps you’ll reach out with a scathing tweet?