CORAL SPRINGS — A governor’s appointee to the Broward School Board is trying to unseat an incumbent for a seat on the Coral Springs City Commission.
Daniel Foganholi is a Coral Springs design consultant who in April was selected by Governor Ron DeSantis to serve on the Broward School Board. Foganholi is running against incumbent Shawn Cerra for the citywide race for Seat 2 in the November election.
Cerra is a school district administrator who served as a school principal for years. Elected to public office in Coral Springs in 2019, he says he regularly addresses residents’ concerns, calling on the city government “to find solutions. I have a pretty high success rate.
As school official, Cerra came to public attention last November when the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported that he had stayed with a vendor. The following month, the State Ethics Commission received complaints about it.
Foganholi was new to politics when he was nominated by DeSantis in late April to fill Rosalind Osgood’s seat on the Broward County School Board.
He is also director of strategic partnerships for the Brazilian American Coalition, a nonprofit that helps Brazilian Americans, and he would be the first Brazilian-American elected to the commission.
Now, a few months later, he said he was going to stay in politics. Foganholi said he liked his seat on the school board, but to keep it in the next election he would have to move to one of the six towns in the district. “It would take me a long time to leave Coral Springs,” he said.
Foganholi originally filed his candidacy as a Republican for a representative seat from Florida last November, which would mean going back and forth to Tallahassee, but decided to stay close to home because he and his wife have a small family. daughter due in October.
There were two commission seats up for re-election, and Foganholi chose to target a city leader who is the subject of an ethics investigation: It was “a part but not the main reason”, he said.
The other open seat, held by Commissioner Josh Simmons, who is vice mayor, was uncontested. Mayor Scott J. Brook’s seat was also unopposed, so he will automatically be re-elected.
Cerra, a resident of Coral Springs since 1993, was elected city commissioner in June 2019. In a recent interview, he said he was eager to move past a state ethics investigation.
A Nov. 19 Sun Sentinel news article shed light on how Cerra and School board member Donna Korn had vacationed several times in the Naples area with Chuck Puleri, whose company Chuck Puleri & Associates is the longtime distributor of Herff Jones caps and dresses in the district.
Cerra and his wife have stayed with Puleri at his $1.1 million beach house at least twice, in May 2019 and March 2021.
A resident filed a complaint with the Florida Ethics Commission that Cerra ordered principals to notify parents that their children cannot attend graduations unless they are wearing caps and gowns Herff Jones. In April 2021, a representative for Herff Jones sent an email to a manager titled “Herff Jones robe required to enter stadium”, citing Cerra’s instructions. It stated that students and parents should be reminded that a Herff Jones cap and smock were required to participate, for consistency, safety and security reasons. The email said those with non-Herff Jones products would not be admitted.
Cerra said the issue of Herff Jones products was taken out of context.
He said the district wanted consistency and to go with the chosen vendor. “I never said a student wouldn’t be allowed to participate,” he said. “We have never retained a student. In the old days, [for students in need], the school or the PTA would issue a gown. When I was in Taravella there were a lot of kids who couldn’t afford stuff and I paid for them out of pocket.
Cerra, was a high school social studies teacher and then principal of JP Taravella High School for 14 years before being promoted to director of athletics and student activities for the Broward County School Board.
Cerra said he was interviewed by the ethics commission in the spring and, “I hope to have everything in the public eye in August and everything behind me in September. I can’t wait to clear my name. There’s no has no basis for this.
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Cerra, 51, was elected to the city commission just months before the pandemic plunged the world into disarray. Among his main decisions: helping to choose the current city manager and pushing for local vaccination sites.
He also encouraged affordable housing and community improvement by allowing Habitat for Humanity to build duplexes in the Riverside Drive and Sample Road area on a parcel of cleared land.
Foganholi, 36, said he mainly chose the Cerra seat because he thinks it can bring about a change in “energy level and involvement”.
“I believe the city needs new energy in the neighborhood,” he said.
He said the governor’s office is “very supportive,” he said. “I received the best wishes from the Governor” through his staff.
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Lisa J. Huriash can be reached at [email protected] or 954-572-2008. Follow @LisaHuriash on Twitter.