Four candidates across two school board races will face off in the general election Nov. 8.
In one race is Marcia Andrews, an incumbent with nearly 12 years of experience representing Wellington, the Glades and Royal Palm Beach on the board. She is facing a challenge from Jennifer Showalter, an outspoken advocate for parental rights — a rallying cry of GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis, who wants more control over school policies and curriculum.
Andrews came just two percentage points shy of winning the District 6 seat outright against four candidates in the primary, landing 48% of the vote. She will face the candidate who came closest to her, Showalter, who won 18% of the ballots cast.
The other race pits Edwin Ferguson against Corey Michael Smith. Both attorneys are vying for the board seat being vacated by Dr. Debra Robinson that represents residents in Riviera Beach and a narrow stretch of neighborhoods that runs south mostly east of Interstate 95 to Delray Beach.
Ferguson polled 43% of the vote in the primary to Smith's 41%.
The winners Nov. 8 will join incumbents Karen Brill and Erica Whitfield, who won their seats in the primary by garnering more than 50% of the vote.
The county's public school district is governed by a seven-member elected board whose seats are filled in alternating election cycles. Board members serve four-year terms. Three seats were filled in the last cycle.
All Palm Beach County voters, regardless of party affiliation, can vote in the nonpartisan school board elections as long as they live in the district being decided.
The Palm Beach Post performed a criminal background check on every candidate for school board, including the incumbents.
The Post is reporting any criminal charges filed and the outcome of the cases since January 2012, even when they did not result in a conviction.
Here's what to know about the candidates in the two school board races:
District 6: The Glades, Wellington and Royal Palm Beach
About Marcia Andrews
Age and residence: Marcia Andrews, 72, lives in Royal Palm Beach.
Platform: Her top campaign priorities are increasing reading performance among younger elementary students, addressing unfinished learning caused by the pandemic, expanding mental and behavioral health programs in schools and ensuring student and staff safety.
“As the current school board member for district 6, a former teacher, assistant principal, principal, district administrator and union member, I know public education,” Andrews wrote in a response to a Palm Beach Post candidate questionnaire. “I have a keen understanding of the unique challenges our principals, teachers, employees and students face.”
Professional history: Andrews has served on the school board since November 2010. She has worked as the chief officer of recruitment, the chief personnel officer, an area superintendent and as a lead instruction specialist for the district.
She is a former principal of Wellington’s Polo Park Middle School and West Palm Beach’s Bear Lakes Middle. She also once worked as an assistant principal at Palm Springs Middle. She was the founder and president of an education consulting firm called Up Front Consulting, which is now closed.
Education: Andrews holds a master’s degree in administration and supervision from Nova Southeastern University in Davie and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Florida Atlantic University.
Children in the district: Andrews' adult children once attended Palm Beach County schools, and her grandchildren go to school in the district.
Social media presence: Andrews’ social media use is limited to Facebook, where she posts mostly on school board issues.
Criminal history: None.
Notable media coverage: Andrews is known for being fiercely protective of schools in the Glades and as the district’s former human resources director, she takes a special interest in staffing and training.
She often stands out as the board member most willing to publicly criticize district officials, most notably when she unsuccessfully attempted to force former Superintendent Donald Fennoy on an improvement plan in 2020 amid intense criticism of his handling of school reopening plans.
Endorsements: Andrews’ campaign website lists a number of endorsements from individual municipal leaders in District 6, including West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James, Belle Glade Mayor Steve Wilson, Pahokee Mayor Keith Babb, Royal Palm Beach Mayor Fred Pinto and South Bay Mayor Joseph Kyles. The Classroom Teachers Association (CTA) also endorsed her.
She was endorsed by The Palm Beach Post Editorial Board on July 26.
Finances: Campaign finance reports as of Sept. 9 show Andrews has raised $89,172 and spent $72,600 on her campaign.
About Jennifer Lynn Miller Showalter
Age and residence: Jennifer Lynn Miller Showalter, 47, lives in Wellington.
Platform: She has vocally denounced what she calls the "over sexualization" of students in the district and says that political "indoctrination" affects their academic performance.
Her top campaign priority is addressing what she calls "the gross overreach and disregard of students, parents and teachers, which has led to ignoring individual and parental rights." She said she wants to rebuild transparency and communication between the board and parents in the district.
“After spending close to two years attending and speaking at school board meetings, I was appalled at the way issues were being handled and the citizens were being treated,” Showalter wrote in a response to The Post's questionnaire. “As a parent of three students, I was deeply concerned at the curriculum, bullying and other concerns facing all the children.”
Professional history: Showalter has worked as a freelance graphic designer and sells essential oils as a certified essential oil specialist through the company doTERRA.
Education: She has a bachelor’s degree in graphic design and a minor in communications from Virginia Tech.
Children in the district: Showalter has three children, one of whom graduated from Wellington High School in May and the other of which attends Wellington High. Her youngest son does not go to school in the district.
Social media presence: Showalter is a steady presence at school board meetings and uses social media to create and share videos of her talking about critical race theory, face masks and school materials she believes to be sexually explicit.
She often uses her campaign social media sites to post links to her four-part video series titled “The War On Our Nation: How Marxism Invaded America Through Our School Systems.”
Criminal history: None.
Notable media coverage: Showalter has often given public comments at board meetings and was photographed in April 2021 protesting face masks outside a board meeting.
Endorsements: She has been endorsed by the Republican National Hispanic Assembly of Florida. Showalter's website also lists several endorsements from Wellington residents, conservative media personality Sloan Rachmuth and actress Sam Sorbo.
Finances: Showalter has raised $29,871 and spent $22,152 as of Sept. 9.
District 7: Riviera Beach, coastal stretch from West Palm to Delray Beach
About Edwin Ferguson
Age and residence: Edwin Ferguson, 45, lives in West Palm Beach.
Platform: Ferguson said he wants to better prepare high school graduates for employment and further education in hopes of dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline. His priorities include improving kindergarten readiness, increasing school safety measures, creating more inclusive education for students with special needs and increasing financial support for district employees.
“There’s a deficiency in the number of children who are ready to excel from day one,” he said. “We have to fix that. If we don’t, we'll have a greater number of people who are unemployed, underemployed or having issues with the criminal justice system."
Professional history: He works as an attorney at The Ferguson Firm, an office he founded in Riviera Beach. Ferguson previously worked as a teacher at Suncoast and Palm Beach Lakes high schools.
Education: Juris doctor from Barry University and an undergraduate degree in business administration from the University of Central Florida.
Children in the district: Ferguson has one child in the district.
Social media presence: Ferguson has used his personal social media to share his attendance at community events, and to share news about education and the legal industry.
Criminal history: The Davie Police Department arrested Ferguson on a charge of driving under the influence in 2012. The charge was reduced to reckless driving after he pleaded no contest and resulted in six months of probation. He declined to comment on the case.
Media coverage: Ferguson appeared in print and television news during his 2018 school board campaign against incumbent Debra Robinson, who maintained her seat with nearly 61% of the vote.
Endorsements: Ferguson’s endorsements include BizPac of Palm Beach County, along with the Palm Beach County Police Benevolent Association, the Classroom Teachers Association, and the Economic Council PAC of Palm Beach County.
State Sen. Bobby Powell, and school board members Frank Barbieri and Barbara McQuinn have also endorsed him.
Finances: As of Sept. 9, he has raised $123,302 for his campaign — the most of any candidate. He has spent $110,850 on the race, most of any of the four candidates running in the general election.
About Corey Michael Smith
Age and residence: Corey Smith, 50, lives in Riviera Beach.
Platform: Smith’s priorities include closing the achievement gaps in early education, strengthening the school-to-workforce pipeline, establishing quarterly town halls, expanding mental health resources and being proactive about school safety. He also vowed to be pro-union and supportive of school district employees.
“I am running because public education remains under attack, and I have the requisite experience, skills, and devotion to the community to defend it,” Smith said in his questionnaire response.
Professional history: He founded the Law Office of Corey M. Smith in West Palm Beach. In his practice, Smith provides "advice and representation to educational institutions across the state." He also works as a special magistrate in the city of Riviera Beach, presiding over code enforcement and unsafe buildings cases.
Smith previously worked as associate counsel for the school district. He also served as a member of the governing board for Inlet Grove High School from 2011 to 2019, and from 2012 to 2021 he served on the Thousand Oaks Community Development District, an elected position.
Education: He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Morehouse College and a juris doctor from the University of Florida.
Children in the district: Smith has three children in local schools.
Social media presence: Smith uses his campaign Facebook page to share appearances at community events, including a Juneteenth parade and a kickoff event for Pride Month last summer.
Smith also uses his social media to offer opinions on hot-button issues. “I stand AGAINST the so called 'stop woke' act, the banning books legislation, the 'don't say gay' bill, and other measures that are being pushed through the Florida legislature that will damage our children and stunt educational growth and progress,” he said in a March 2 post.
Criminal history: None.
Endorsements: Smith has been endorsed by the SEIU Florida Public Services Union, Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, the Democratic Public Education Caucus of Florida, the LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus of Palm Beach County and the Palm Beach County chapter of the National Organization for Women.
Finances: As of Sept. 9, Smith raised $59,738 for his campaign. He has spent $49,018.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Elections: Who is running in Palm Beach County School Board on Nov. 8