GOP Schools Candidate Gets Democratic Support

By Buddy Nevins


Katie Leach is campaigning the way School Board members are supposed to run: Getting bi-partisan support in a non-partisan race.

Leach, of course, must get endorsements from notables of both parties.  She’s Republican and you need Democratic support to win in Broward.

So leading Democrats such as Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler and Plantation Mayor Diane Veltri-Bendekovic are in Leach’s corner. Seiler is such a big name in the party that there is talk about him running for governor as early as 2014. Bendekovic is a retired school system administrator, which makes her endorsement more meaningful.

Here is Leach’s news release:









Broward County, Fla. – At-Large School Board Member and current School Board Candidate for District 3, Katherine “Katie” Leach, is proud to announce that she has been endorsed by Thirteen (13) Mayors and Commission/Council Members from several of the municipalities which make up Broward County School Board District 3.

Katie Leach is the only candidate in the race who has experience with Broward County Public Schools as a Student, Teacher, Parent, Community Volunteer and as a Board Member (2011-Present). In each of these roles, she has worked with integrity and dedication. She is committed to ensuring that the Broward County School Board offers every child educational excellence. Katie’s common sense approach promotes fiscal responsibility.

 “I am honored to have so many of my fellow office holders within District 3 support my candidacy. Working collaboratively with cities and their residents to provide quality education for our children is a top priority. ” said Katie.




Fort Lauderdale Mayor, John P. “Jack” Seiler


Plantation Mayor Diane Veltri-Bendekovic


Oakland Park Mayor Anne Sallee


Lauderdale by the Sea Mayor Roseann Minnet


Wilton Manors Mayor Gary Resnick




Ft. Lauderdale:

Commissioner Bruce Roberts

Commissioner Romney Rogers



Councilman Pete Tingom


Lauderdale by the Sea:

Commissioner Chris Vincent


                    Oakland Park:

Commissioner Shari McCartney

Commissioner Jed Shank


Wilton Manors:

Commissioner Ted Galatis

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Commissioner Scott Newton

22 Responses to “GOP Schools Candidate Gets Democratic Support”

  1. QE2 says:

    I am a Dem in support of Ms. Leach as well. I appreciate her support of the recent anti-FCAT resolution. However, I question her endorsement of Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff. Senator Bogdanoff is a leading proponent of everything that is wrong with the way our legislature treats our local school districts.

  2. Heavy D says:

    I have seen her opponent Michael Levinson working hard walking neighborhoods, greeting people at the polls, and attending political functions throughout the County. He is a teacher with a experience in banking, helping to resolve companies that were in financial trouble. I would say he has great qualifications to help out the troubled School District. Oh yeah, and he was not handed the job by the villain in chief Governor Scott.

  3. Ftl dem says:

    As someone who works in the as an ESE Specialist in Plantation and lives in Imperial Point, I have seen how hard Ms. Leach has worked for the East and West sides of Dist 3.
    There is no more influential Democrat than my Mayor, Jack Seiler. It seems to me that many of these who edorsed are Democrats. I respect these officials for putting public education ahead of party politics in endorsing Ms. Leach.

  4. Educator says:

    Back in October Mrs. Leach visted my classroom. We were initally worried because we had never had never had a board member come to our school that we could even remember. The first thing that she said was, “Please call me Katie” and we quickly learned that she is one of us. She asked many questions and knew much of what goes on in a classroom. She interacted well with the kids too and even asked them about what changes they would like to see in the schools to help them learn. When I saw that she voted for the school boards resolution against high stakes testing I was sold!
    I am glad that my mayor and councilman are supporting her. She is what best for the Plantation schools.

  5. Steward says:

    @Heavy D-
    A couple months ago I attended the BTU steward meeting with all of the canidates for school board and met Mrs. Leach. I had alot of questions about the high school schedule and stipends. Mrs. Leach was very willing to listen to my concerns and told me that compensating employees fairly was an imperative. There wasn’t a man at that event which means that either the gentleman you mentioned is in another race or doesn’t care what teachers think.

  6. Education Activist says:

    While I had my reservations initially when Ms. Leach was appointed, I can say after attending many Board meetings and workshops that she has turned out to be a great Board Member. I am a tried and true Democrat, the reason these races are non-partisan is because what is best for our children is more important than party affiliation. A broken clock is right twice a day, and even Rick Scott can get something right now and then, appointing Ms. Leach is one of those times. If the worst they can say about Ms. Leach is who appointed her than that means they cant find anything wrong with her actions as a Board Member, which speaks volumes in my opinion.

  7. Larry says:

    Since Katie Leach has been on the board, she has done great things. She embraces that this race is non-partisan, which is great. We are dealing with our children’s education and this race should not involve party affiliations.

    I can’t believe the other 2 candidates are even running for this spot. Becky filed for bankruptcy, how does she think she will be able to afford this position?

  8. City Activist Robert Walsh says:

    Wow who knew katie- Now please let Super Runcie do his job. Yes you and member Good slow down, smell the roses let Mr.runcie do his job that you hired him to do. I watched in amazement that Ms.Leach. Korn, and Good gave Mr.runcie such a hard time on his hiring of his admin. staff. Its not like he is going to pay some one ten bucks an hour, come on, these are people w/ degrees some doctrines. Please let him hire who he wants(w/in reason) but please enough of your sounds bites to your constituents. We all know you are looking out for the taxpayer, but please don’t use Mr.runcie for your pastie. All said and done congrats on all your endorsements. Although I would hide from an endorsement from Gary Resnick. My take….(gay mafia)

  9. DeeDee says:

    Leach is a Republican. Broward hates Republicans. She loses!

  10. Whose your sheriff? says:

    Hey deedee

    Who is your sheriff honey? a Republican…

    The majority of the seat overlaps the districts for Moritias, Bogdanoff and LaMarca., all republicans.

  11. Becky Blackwood says:

    Thank you for worrying about my filing for bankruptcy. The truth is after I and two other female inspectors filed a lawsuit in 2001 against the School Board for whistleblowing, discrimination and harassment, I and the 2 other inspectors were offered $1.4 million plus attorney’s fees to go away and not keep up the fight for code enforcement and to forget about protecting the students, teachers and staff from such things as mold and mildew, faulty construction, leaky roofs, overpaying architects, engineers and contractors with creative contracts and change orders. We of course turned it down, wanting the courts to force the School Board of Broward County to enforce building codes. The judge at my trial ruled there was whistleblowing, discrimination and harassment. Unfortunately, a jury had to decide if the School Board failed to promote me which is required to win a whistleblowing lawsuit in the State of Florida.
    The witness, Dr. Frank Till, stated he really liked me but he was told by other staff members, I was difficult to work with. That was because I would not allow schools to open which did not meet the fire and safety code requirements for occupancy. Dr. Till failed to state he had threatened to fire me for directing the removal of teachers and their children from the 3 story building at South Broward High School. The building was under construction and did not have an operating fire alarm system, a sprinkler system and had openings on the second and third floor to the ground below. The teachers were told, without my knowledge, by the Safety Director Jerry Graziose, to get their classrooms ready for the opening of the building within a week. Mr. Graziose was told in a meeting with Till, Tom Calhoun, Bob Goode the day before the building could not be opened. No inspectors would sign off the building for occupancy so Bob Goode signed off using the wrong code to do so. This occured within 10 days of my interviewing for the Building Official position. I had previously received the highest scores for 3 other positions I was not selected for during my employment at the School Board. The foreman of the jury stated when being interviewed that his parents were best friends with Board Member Bob Parks. Needless to say, the jury voted I was not prevented from promotion and the trial was lost. Go figure.

    In 2005, the School Board sought $87,000 in legal fees from this trial, against me. Of that total, $40,000 was for Marilyn Battista, a full time employed attorney for the School Board making over a hundred and fifty thousand a year at the time. A judicial review of Mrs. Battista’s legal fees reduced them from $220. an hour to $110 an hour over and above her salary at the School Board plus her benefits.

    My only choice was to file for bankruptcy to prevent the School Board from garnishing my wages to prevent me from paying my mortgage. Even with the 3 year bankruptcy, they received more than $13,000 for their legal fees. I don’t know about anyone else, but I was not about to lose my home after I had spent almost $30,000 of my own money to try and stop the corruption at the School Board. Believe me, I can afford to run for the office and I believe my past history demonstrates my integrity. By the way, Larry, you forgot to mention while under threat of termination by Dr. Till and Notter, I was asked to represent the School Board in lawsuits that settled for $3.3 million that was returned to the School Board as well as consult on another $4 – $5 million dollars in “Other” change orders attributing the costs of these change orders to inspectors not architects, engineers or contractors. Most of that money was returned to the District. $3.3 million vs. my salary for 15 years – I think the School Board received more than I was paid. If I was corrupt, I would have taken the $600,000 of the $1.4 million and walked away.But here I am. The FBI and the FDLE at least listened and looked what happened after more than 15 years of 3 different grand jury reports stating the same procedures were being followed and nothing happened. Larry, the School Board of Broward County wasn’t my first construction rodeo. I’ve been working in design and construction for 28 years and the majority of that time was in the PRIVATE sector. By the way, I have the credentials neither one of my opponents have, Bachelor of Design with honors and a Masters of Building Construction from the University of Florida. I have also been teaching building construction management for the bachelors program at Everglades University in Boca Raton for the past 5 years. Where was the money stolen – Construction in such things as Construction Management at Risk (with no risk) Contracts and “Other” change orders when the School Board was purchasing Professional Liability Insurance Policies on every project but I think the ones I testified on where some of the very few claims every filed through the Auditing Department, not Facilities. Oh and how about those Unit Price Contracts, too? Teachers as Board members, though well intended, have not identified nor recognized these methods used to mismanage the construction funds by distributing these funds to those who provided Board members with funding for their campaigns. Mrs. Leach served on the Facilities Task Force during the time when all of these “favored” contractors were being awarded contracts.

    Mrs. Leach also stated recently in an informal meeting with the Broward’s Teachers Union members last month that the corruption at the School Board was behind them. Even the Grand Jury wasn’t that naive, they stated even though changes had begun, they believed they had only begun to scratch the surface.

    Since Governor Scott is an advocate for Charter Schools, his appointment of Mrs. Leach for the School Board is a reflection of his policies. Yes, Charter Schools are public schools but they do not have to have the same facilities, they do not have to have teachers with the same certifications. The School Board has limited control on the actions of the School Board. We have the ability to turn our schools around but it can’t be by repeating the same actions over and over again and expecting different results.

  12. taxpayer says:

    Interesting comment from Ms. Blackwood and the sad chain of events on her efforts to assure code compliant construction and inspections of schools funded with our tax dollars. I have no doubt had she had a professional license (architect) in Florida she would have prevailed. No licenses, up against those that did, allowed this to transpire for years. Even if those with the licenses lied to keep jobs.

  13. Becky Blackwood says:

    A correction to my statement. The School Board has limited control on Charter Schools as provided by the State of Florida legislature.

  14. Let's run it thorugh the BS Filter says:

    1) You were involved in matters almost a over decade ago.
    2) Out of the goodness of your heart you turned down 1.4 million of taxpayer money to settle only to lose your case on some level, this is based on the fact that those who are successful dont get hit with the fees of the other side. I am sure there was never a thoguht your case was so good that you could get more than 1.4 mil…
    3) So you selfishly filed bankruptcy to avoid reimbursing the School Board tax payer dollars that they had to expended in attorneys fees for dealing with some part of your case which the Court found without merit.

    Fast forward to 2012

    I agree that the Grand Jury cited instances of corruption in facilities. Of course that happened years ago, why didnt your run against DInnen in 08 when this issue was ripe?

    This is a dead issue because it is well documented the previous Board overbuilt schools in the boom years and is not constructing any new buildings. So it would seem your candidacy is a day late and a dollar short.

    Finally, your comment of “The School Board has limited control on the actions of the School Board” is idiotic. If the School Board has limited control to do anything how can change anything?

  15. Becky Blackwood says:

    Either I have a problem with math or – . It certainly hasn’t been a decade – that is 10 years right? This past Grand Jury was citing the same District mismanagement policies when I was hired in 1996. It never changed. It is still going on. The individuals who were contributing to this mismanagement are still employed with the District. Are you sure you read my blog? Not only did a Judge find what I stated was true (for whistleblowing, harassment and discrimination), so did 3 Grand Juries of everyday citizens. Read the unusual circumstances of the jury foreman – Bob Parks best friends? Answer me why a full time salaried employee (Mrs. Battista) is entitled to additional money when no other District employee is allowed to do so for all of the after hours work they do? I thought I made it clear I was not offered the $1.4 million, I and two other inspectors were offered the $1.4 million, $600,000 to me; $400,000 to each of them. Plus $200,000 in attorney fees. Why would a School Board be willing to pay that much money and suffer the public outcry if there wasn’t something seriously wrong? Seems to me I saved the public some taxpayers’ money by not taking the deal. Also, Dr. Till lied on the witness stand. It was not uncommon for Superintendents and senior management staff to lie, even on application forms to get licenses to hold positions, on academic educational records, improper licensing, etc. Tom Calhoun, Dr. Till’s protege testified for the School Board, while he had earlier agreed to become an employee of the firm he was testifying against. Believe me, I was naive, too. It just isn’t the same old School Board you and I grew up with. I could have refused to testified for the School Board while under threat of termination. They couldn’t have forced me to do so, yet even with the opposing attorneys knowing of my possible termination, and after my testimony, the lawsuits were still settled for $3.3 million. Let’s see, $67,000 attorney fees (less $20,000 for Mrs. Battista’s hourly fees of $220, reduced to $110 per hour for her salaried position) less the $13,000 and change I paid through the bankruptcy less the $3.3 million settled lawsuits, less the $4 -$5 million settlements paid for the “Other” change order categories. I believe I represented the public with integrity and the best of intentions. Should I have become homeless because others found no problem with lieing on a witness stand or in a deposition?

    How can we expect it to change? By changing the composition of the Board. Teachers have made up the majority of School Board members for decades (more than 10 years as you said). No one with construction education and experience with educational facilities has been a member of the Board since before I was hired. Teachers responsibilities lie in their schools. They have very little interaction with senior management and the Superintendent of Schools when they are teaching. Why else did the Grand Jury state they were unaware? As I said before, do we continue doing the same thing over and over again and expect change. You know the answer to that.

    We have choices. How about using music and art in elementary schools to teach children to read, write and do math? How about other alternative types of schools for the 20% who drop out?

    How about addressing the increasing number of autistic children coming into our system with increased classrooms and specialists in the field and a manual to help those parents find their way through the maze?

    How about centralizing information so there is no more territorial management and everyone gets the same information?

    These are just a few of my observations I think should be addressed. I have many others I would be happy to discuss with you.

    Change can happen. Finally, one Grand Jury was able to do what 2 prior ones weren’t able. Did you ever find out why? We have a good start but we have only begun to scratch the surface? Why are you questioning my intentions? School Board mismanagement issues are still the same whether its 1995, 2005 or 2012? Choose to elect the same individuals with the same type of qualifications and see if you don’t get the same results. “I told you so” has been attributed to me by several individuals in the recent past.

  16. Sidelines says:

    I would have taken the money at that point, left the job, gone back to college to get a real architecture degree to sit for ARE( 4 yr BS in Arch. like U of F bestows is not enough), sat for the exam, got my license. If subpoenaed you could have refuted what they claimed. Or better yet, Plan B – take the money, go to law school and sue architects and other design pros that don’t do their job. $40k elected to a school board is no-win because the same clowns run broward schools, and one vote on the SBBC doesn’t do a thing.

  17. A shill by another name says:

    Becky you got in this race to split the plantation vote. You are phoney democrat.

  18. Becky Blackwood says:

    To Shill,

    I didn’t get into the race to split the Democratic vote. I was considering running last year but after seeing two teachers were running for the office, it became more apparent that the School Board was not going to change because those who were unaware and allowed the corruption to go on were well intended teachers. I got into the race to give the public a choice for either a teacher or a person with construction education, experience and knowledge in facilities construction. It really is going to be up to the public to make that decision, whether they want true change or not. Both of my opponents have had no experience in the backroom politics of the School Board. Unfortunately, my enforcing the law was not their priority. Through the efforts of the FBI and FDLE, maybe the powers that be got the message. Who is really going to be the benefactors of this change – our students, teachers and staff, our community and our tax dollars? It’s about the best qualified candidate.

  19. Notocorruption says:

    Becky Blackwood will make A VERY FINE School Board member of unblemished honesty and integrity. She has rumored to run for office for quite some time. I trust she will do so. The citizens of the Plantation area of the County will have a MARVELOUS opportunity if they do the good and decent thing and encourage Ms. Blackwood to run for office AND ELECT her to the School Board.

  20. oh becky says:

    Dont you think the Board needs more than a one trick poney whose whole qualification is based on her work with facilities, since the SB is no longer building buildings your qulaifications are as useful as the head of the buggywhip company when the car went to mass production.

    Even dumber is your comment “Both of my opponents have had no experience in the backroom politics of the School Board”

    Leach has been on the Board for almost a year, do you not think she has had to deal with the backroom politics as a sitting member”.

    Just fess up Beckster you’re candidacy is only hurting the other dem in the race, he has worked hard for over a year and you are going to hurt him by splitting the vote. how selfish are you?

  21. Becky Blackwood says:

    It was my understanding Leach took office in November 2011. Is that a year? Are you saying there will be no more construction now or in the next four years? Construction is still going on, not in the volume it was before, but it is certainly not going to stop. Look at the amount of money budgeted for capital projects. With the slow down, don’t you think it is time to change the way business is done in those departments? How about maintenance construction which limits projects to $250,000? Mrs. Leach believes the corruption has been taken care of. At least that’s what she was telling BTU members in an informal meeting last month. She was in favor of selling all of the surplus portables to individuals here in South Florida, not knowing they more than likely don’t meet code and there would be a problem for the new owners in installing them on a site. I am also a college professor so how am I not qualified to run for this office? My only experience, construction and teaching, has not been with the Broward County Schools.
    Democracy allows any qualified individual to run for office. If the public wants Mr. Levinson to occupy the seat, he will be elected. I don’t see you calling others running in Districts where there are more than 2 candidates selfish? Let the voters decide.

  22. oh Becky says:


    I am a proud Democrat who does not think its fair for you to split our party vote to satisfy a grudge from a decade ago.

    Have you not said all along, the reason you were the better candidate was because the other two in the race were teachers/educators? Now you just said:
    “I am also a college professor so how am I not qualified to run for this office? My only experience, construction and teaching, has not been with the Broward County Schools.”

    So it’s ok that you yourself are an educator/teacher but someone who is teaching our youth in middle school is not?

    Beckster you are right, it is a democracy and you do have the right to run. Never said you did not. I dont like it so I have the right under the Constitution to free speech.