Replacing Kraft: Activist vs. Experience


The race to replace School Board member Stephanie Kraft in northwest Broward boils down to one thing experience.

On one side there is David “Dave Thomas.  He’s the one with the experience.

He spent 23 years in the U. S. Navy, retiring as a Lieutenant Commander. 

Then he worked two years at Broward Sheriff’s Office, some of it helping juveniles. 

Since 1994 he’s been a classroom teacher, most currently at J. P. Taravella High in Coral Springs.

He’s got leadership and classroom experience.  

His opponent Jaemi Levine

She’s a nice enough woman.  She basically is a Mom with five children, which is fine and honorable.  But she is short on real leadership and classroom experience.

Levine calls herself a digital violence prevention expert.  The number one goal on her School Board platform is to protect children from sicko Internet predators.

Who doesn’t want to protect children?  Are Internet stalkers the biggest problem facing our schools? 


Just what can the school system do about sex predators on the Internet?  Not much because they generally lurk on websites that kids access from home.

Other than her own anti-predator group experience, Levine lists on her website some memberships in Democratic political clubs and her work having lobbied for anti-sex predator legislation in Coral Springs.

Is that the best preparation for School Board?  I don’t think so.

It upsets me that both candidates in this District 4 race in the northwest corner of the county are vague about what they want to do on the School Board. 

Their positions are full of generalities.  They sound good but come with no realistic information on how they will be implemented and paid for. 

Here is Thomas’ website, which calls for fiscal responsibility and quality education without offering details.  That’s like saying he’s for motherhood and apple pie.  

Levine’s is just as silly, pledging “strong facilitation and change management skills.”  Huh!

Faced with such vague foolishness, voters are advised to go with experience.   

I much rather vote for a candidate who’s been a leader and who’s worked with students in the classroom — Thomas.   He knows the schools from the bottom up. 

Levine partisans are invited to counter my point of view.

23 Responses to “Replacing Kraft: Activist vs. Experience”

  1. Local Lawyer says:

    Good thing you don’t live in our District. Jaemi will fight the corruption that has plagued the school board since your tenure. Dave has already made the back room deals to screw over our kids!

    Jaemi fought Stephanie and her corrupt machine four years ago. The fight continues against her proxy until Nov. 2. The voters deserve better!

  2. Lpeerman33063 says:

    Thanks for the opportunity Buddy
    I have said both candidates have the same platform (I have spoken to both) and I give them both props for not making statements that they do not even know if they can implement.
    For me it comes down to trust since I do not believe any experience in the world prepares you for public office.
    When I first met Jaemi she told me about her friendship with Grad and Gallagher. I did not ask for the information it was offered to me up front. That showed me integrity.
    I do not have that trust with Dave. I respected his letter to BTU canceling his interview, however his decision to accept their money and endorsements goes against what he stated he believed. I have a problem with that. The fact that there is conflicting information about whether Dave is a member or not also bothers me. Only for the simple fact that it s conflicting information as opposed to BTU or Dave himself just stating the facts. Jaemi’s passion has been her fight against online predators but I see and believe that her passion is also Broward Schools and not just the things you pointed out. If she was able to bring her fight to a national level then she will be a fighter for Dist 4 as well.
    Margate is a priority for me and I have felt that it has been ignored by the SB. I have seen Jaemi in and around Margate, Dave not so much. When I asked him about Margate he said “I haven’t been able to get back to Margate THEY have had me going here and there and everywhere” that again does not sit well for me.
    So for me it is trust and who I believe will fight for Margate Schools.

  3. Stone Cold's Bottom Line says:

    4 of the 5 elected officials in Margate have endorsed in this race, 3 for Thomas, and 1 for Levine, so Dave must be doing something right in Margate.

  4. Lpeerman33063 says:

    As I have stated before and have told Dave himself, most of the Margate endorsements are co endorsements as as some of the Coral Springs.
    Even, when he said the Mayor of Margate endorsed him at the Magate Dem Club and Jaemi asked the Mayor sitting right there if that was a co endorsement and the Mayor said yes it was he still does not correct the information.

  5. Buddy you've got that right says:

    Buddy, you hit the nail on the head with your observations. Dave, as a classroom teacher, knows first hand the issues facing both teachers and students at this time. The issues the school board deals with, including class size reduction, educational accountability (end of course vs FCAT tests, the new teacher accountability statute, grading of schools, etc.) are issues that he has first hand knowledge of.

    His military background as well as his experience with youthful offenders sets him apart from the “nice mom” of five kids.

    His opponent’s supporters have waged a nasty campaign, making personal attacks on Dave and others. Dave has kept his campaign on the high road.

    In the past four years, while Dave has been in a classroom, working with our students, what has his opponent done to show that she actually cares about education? Not a damn thing. His opponent ran for SB four years ago, and since that time has been AWOL from schools. She has not been involved, even at her own kids’ schools, with any Advisory, PTA, support organizations, or anything that would show that she even cares about educational issues. It makes me wonder if she is doing this more just to have a political office than because she really cares about the education of our kids.

    BTW, not to go negative, but to state a fact, even her organization that was set up to fight internet predators has been dissolved by the Secretary of State for non-filing of reports.

    If she can’t even stay on top of her organization, what does that say about her ability to stay on top of issues on the SB?

    Florida Non Profit Corporation
    Filing Information
    Document Number N07000010205
    Date Filed 10/18/2007
    State FL
    Status INACTIVE
    Effective Date 10/13/2007
    Event Date Filed 09/24/2010
    Event Effective Date NONE

  6. ParklandMomofJaden says:

    Very interesting Buddy. I didn’t give the School Board race that much thought as there are so many going on now. I’m very interested in the Governor and Senate race but these small races are pretty important too.

    Friends of mine have met Dave Thomas campaigning in Coral Springs and think he is fantastic. I like your background information on him too. Impressive.

  7. Charley Varrick says:

    Buddy, don’t you just love it when people write “BTW, not to go negative” and then go negative. Also the use of “his opponent” rather than actually write the name of the candidate. Yet another example of the tired and very cliched political hogwash that we must endure through every election cycle.

  8. Lpeerman33063 says:

    Why is it so hard for Dave supporters to post their real names. Geeez
    buddyyouvegotthatright says
    “His opponent’s supporters have waged a nasty campaign, making personal attacks on Dave and others. Dave has kept his campaign on the high road.”
    Thank you for making yet another blanket statement thus lumping me into a false accusation. Some of his supporters have not taken the high road(especially fake name ones on Facebook) and I am tired of it being painted as some sort of saints vs sinners campaign. Grow up. Elections get nasty.
    I have a brother and sister retired from the Navy(higher rank than Dave) and his military record while should be respected is not a gauge for his ability to be a School Board member or any other elected official. (I asked them and they laughed) So his military experience is not one that I took into consideration as for being a teacher again not something I took into major consideration since my mother was a teacher and my father was a principal/superintendent as well as a School Board member for some time at the HS I went to.

  9. NoseBleedSeats says:

    Lpeerman33063 says: If you do an unbiased comparison you will find that Levine doesn’t belong in the same room, let alone on the same ballot with Thomas. She gets to run because this is America and that’s the way we do it! Is this a great Country or what? I stand by my previous post, I’d vote for an accused felon (Kraft) before another crack pot like Levine! I know, I know, use my real name – hell no, then people would know who I was!

  10. Lpeerman33063 says:

    I will give you that, as far as on paper Thomas looks very good. No comparison. However I do not decide on just what is on paper and I make my decisions unbiased.

  11. Joan King says:

    I hate to target the negative side, but as a 30 yr. Broward teacher & BTU Master Steward,… I’ve had a few BAD experiences with Dave Thomas (first-hand: he lied to me more than twice, but I tell the two). I friended both Dave & Jaemi on FB to see who I wanted to support for the sch brd race. I was not impressed with some of the negative remarks & articles he had on his wall. His remarks back to me were negative and arrogant! Marty’s Watchin’ Broward, showed that he cancelled his appt. with BTU for the endorsement before the Primary! In mid-July at the CS-Parkside Demo Club, he told two BTU Master Stewards & a friend about how he would never be a member because of his military background, but I argued that since my dad was in Korea & returned to be a member of the Phila. MasterCarpenter’s Union,… and all the cops & fireman that were union guys and former military! He has repeatedly said “NO UNION, for 16 yrs. now!” I have paid my dues to BTU, for the bargaining & negotiations they have done for ALL teachers (contracts). He went to the Sept. Endorsement meeting, since he no showed for the other! Then Dave has the nerve to tell BTU Stewards at the Sept. BTU Stewards’ Council Mtg. where he was introduced & unfortunately endorced. We had heard that our pres. was forced to join the “committee” (F.O.P.E., Brow. College,… for the AFL-CIO),… BIG MISTAKE!!! He stood in front of a half-dozen BTU Stewards and stated he joined in JUNE! We, ALL, received a 59 pg. packet of Non-Members to RECRUIT, dated Sept. 1, 2010,… who’s name is on pg.#53, “yes, Dave of Taravella HS!” We told him, he was lying because two BTU Field Reps had just told us he joined the day after he found out he was endorsed, less than 2 weeks ago! He said, Maggie Z. of BTU could prove he’s been a member since June! We said “SHOW US PAYCHECK STUBS!” But the Sch Brd knows when he started paying dues!? How can we support someone who has “in writing” said such negative things about the BTU! He only got the Miami Herald & other endorsements AFTER BTU gave-in to the committee & did the AFL-CIO endorsements! He’s been photographed & facebook compliments/guest lists with Stephanie Kraft,… She wanted to PICK her replacement,… Smarten Up People, especially BTU & teachers’ families,…

  12. What is important says:

    Dave Thomas invented the baconator, he has my vote

  13. School Board Shortage says:

    The most important trait that should be exhibited by a School Board member is understanding the budget and how finances work. Unfortunately, neither of these candidates have ever run a business or have exhibited financial acumen.

  14. Roy L. Fuchs says:

    @School Board Shortage: I disagree that understanding budgets and finance are the most important trait for a school board member. I think the most important trait is honesty, and the ability to hire honest smart people. The School Board has for many years been composed of members that think they are smarter than their professional staff. School Board members shoulp effectuate good policy, and allow the professional staff to support them with accurate information (be it about budgets, finance, FCATs, school boundaries, or beef-a-roni). Corruption sets in however when School Board members think they are smarter than the professionals. Electing a group of “budget experts” will result in better schools? Doubtful.

  15. Wrong Roy says:

    The school board does not hire anybody but the superintendent and the attorney. Honesty is always important but it doesn’t help much if you’re not competent to expertly run a multi-billion, highly complicated organization that employs many thousands of people. Those are executive skills and rare ones to find at that. No committee chosen on the basis of popularity and political rhetoric can be reliably expected to collectively run a school district that large, that essential to our success as a community or that complicated efficiently. It’s a joke to even assume that. We need an empowered, competent and elected CEO over there who’s job is on the line if they fail to succeed. The role of the school board should be advisory. The structure we have now is the exact opposite of what we need. It does not work now, it will work tomorrow and there is no basis to believe otherwise. Mediocrity and continued grief will be the price that our kids will pay for the continued denial of adults to accept these basic facts and our unwillingness to change it.

  16. Jaemi Levine says:

    When I ran in 2004 my platform was the huge waste and corrupting I saw. The time has come for our children, teachers, and taxpayers to have a voice that speaks for them and not special interests. I am a voice that cannot and will not be bought! I think out of the box and have created programs that show that. In 1998 I created an early education program at Temple Beth El in Boca Raton. It was written about in the Celebrations section of the Sun Sentinel. I told stories that promoted diversity and caring Dr. Seuss’s Sneaches for example. I used recycled materials and made each story an interactive play. Two of my murals are in the music room at Beth El because I am an artist. I have been an asset and a leader in every community I have lived in. After Katrina I created Beads for Needs, our students had an opportunity to shine, and they did raising over 8000 dollars for the children and teachers of Ocean Springs Mississippi once again promoting diversity and character. The news coverage brought the most positive national press Broward students have ever received. The Hurricane Helpers plan I worked on with Colonel Armstrong and was written about in the Miami Herald and by you was called brilliant by Ari Porth and many others. I have worked at my own expense to educate parent’s teachers and children on the dangers of digital violence and predators. I am a leader and I will work diligently to bring integrity, respect, and confidence back to Broward County public schools. I was a member of the A.F.L.C.I.O. when I worked as an insurance agent in the 90’s I have never wavered in support of good unions. I have never and will never compromise my core beliefs to seek an endorsement or funds.
    I was proud to be at the Save Our Specials Protest! I am shocked at the waste in the district, consultants paid 12’000 to speak! A Dr. Paid over 50’000 to do the job of the Board and evaluate Till, No magic he fails!!!!!!!! I am outraged by the suggestion that we cut at the fabric of our children’s education to cut the budget! Without Art, Music, P.E. school won’t be special to many of our kids. Kids like me who thrived after losing a parent because of my Drama and Art teachers. Kids like my brother who learned to be part of a team because of P.E. Kids like my daughter who thrived after a predator lured her online, thanks in great part to Music and Band !
    Our children’s right to a well rounded education is being threatened. The time has come for our children, teachers and tax payers to come first. What do we want in a school board member? A politician who is ready to take this job in the most desperate of times! When I vote I want someone who has a track record of a fighting for kids I do. Someone who can see through a sheep’s clothing and tell the wolf to pack a bag…. A big bag! I have. Our children face an uncertain future they bare the brunt of our fractured economy. From the most privileged to least budget cuts have cost many parents their jobs, changing the lives of many families. Now those cuts seem to be aimed at our most important asset the very fabric of our future, the education of our youth.

  17. Git R Done says:

    To:School Board Shortage says AND Roy L. Fuchs says:

    You’re both right, they need honesty and someone who can read a budget, seriously!
    When was the last time the budget was actually balanced?

  18. KC Caldwell CPA says:

    I am Ms. Levine’s CPA and we have worked together to merge Mothers Against Predators with Beads for Needs as a way to minimize the costs associated with maintaining the non-profit organizations.

    This organization has improved the safety of our children through Ms. Levine’s dedication on a minimal budget.

    At a time when national and local consciousness is focused on cyber bullying and teen suicides, we need leaders like Jaemi.

  19. Jaemi Levine says:

    Thank you for acknowledging my efforts to take M.A.P. national. Let me start by telling you about my relationship with Patte Atkins –Grad. We met on the campaign trail in 2006.I met many of our local leaders some of whom are on(or have been) on my board , Ari Porth, Stacy Ritter, Ken Gottlieb, Glenda Mc Murray ( Vice Principal of Challenger Elementary) . Of them all only Stacy Ritter is on the filed papers. She has not been an active member, donated any funds, or raised any funds. I am the only signer on the account. Patte became the Chair when on the advice of many I removed Marty Rubenstein. Patte worked hard sponsoring a resolution through Tamarac and the League of Cities. Her only donation to MAP was at the end of her most recent campaign for 400 dollars. I can’t fault her efforts on behalf of kids, can you? All of MAP’s other funds have come from my husband and myself. As the President of MAP I made the difficult decision to remove a friend from the Board immediately when she was charged. For the record at the meeting of the Tamarac club I did not say any such thing. I honestly feel winners should be graceful as should losers. I have never been rude to Patty Lynn. I did defend my being there when I was accused of just attending to vote against Patty. I always attend the clubs in my district and speak as do most candidates.

  20. Lpeerman33063 says:

    While I might have advise against you posting what you have above(if you had asked me which you didn’t but that’s ok I was sleeping) I am very proud that you did. Again your forthcoming shows and your integrity that I have seen but others choose not to look for is evident.

  21. Lpeerman33063 says:

    And she even posted it under her real name.

  22. Concerned in C. S. says:

    I’ve read the many responses here to the article. Some say that Dave took the high road… well, read about his “Ivory Johnson” persona and vicious attacks he made under that facebook name.
    He talks about “experience”. When was the last time he was a school baord member? Both of these candidates are inexperienced when it comes to the Broward School Board. Being a dental receptionist does not prepare one to do a root canal.
    And since he is a teacher, how can he explain not being a member of his professional organization for 16 years? He took the cheap road and let others pay for the negotiation of his contract and benefits. Disgraceful!

  23. LyndatheantiBTU says:

    Excuse me, but why in the heck would anyone join BTU? BTU is mismanaged, ineffective and exists solely to do Jim Notter’s bidding, but absolutely nothing for its members. Dave took the cheap road? No, Dave took the smart road. Teachers, forget the union and put the money you would have paid in dues into a savings account. If you ever need representation, withdraw your savings and get an attorney. God forbid you depend on the sorry-ass union to represent you. Anyone who thinks BTU is a real union has never belonged to a real union.