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3 newcomers challenge longtime school board member to represent W. Boynton, Delray Beach

The Palm Beach Post logo The Palm Beach Post 7/20/2022 Giuseppe Sabella, Palm Beach Post
A graphic shows how much money Palm Beach County School Board candidates have raised ahead of the Aug. 23 primary. Donations are current as of May 31, 2022. © KATHERINE KOKAL/ PALM BEACH POST A graphic shows how much money Palm Beach County School Board candidates have raised ahead of the Aug. 23 primary. Donations are current as of May 31, 2022.

Three newcomers are seeking to unseat an 11-year member of the Palm Beach County School Board who represents suburban Lantana, Boynton Beach and Delray Beach.

Karen Brill, a longtime advocate for students with disabilities and Holocaust education programs, is facing challenges from Connor Frontera, Bailey K. Lashells and Kristen Marie Stevenson, candidates who built their campaigns on parental rights and the growing movement to weed out health mandates and certain lessons or conversations from schools.  

Four districts — 3, 4, 6 and 7 — are up for grabs this year, and all Palm Beach County voters, regardless of party affiliation, can vote in the nonpartisan school board elections if they live in the district being decided. 

Board members serve four-year terms and are elected on a rotating basis. 

The four candidates will face off in the primary election Aug. 23. If no single candidate garners more than 50% of the vote, the top two vote-getters will face off in the general election Nov. 8. 

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. 

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The Post also reviewed the candidates’ social media profiles and provided a questionnaire to learn more about their priorities and qualifications.

The candidates below are listed in alphabetical order, using the names that will appear on the ballot.  

Here's who is running to represent District 3: 

Karen Brill 

Karen Brill © Provided by Karen Brill Karen Brill

Age and residence: Karen Brill, 65, lives in unincorporated Palm Beach County west of Boynton Beach. 

Platform: Since her election to the board in 2010, Brill has advocated for students with disabilities and promoted Holocaust education programs. Her re-election campaign centers on keeping schools safe, encouraging parent participation, advocating for teachers, effectively managing the budget, increasing student achievement, closing the digital divide and expanding vocational and pre-apprenticeship programs.  

“My private sector experience coupled with my record of public service make me the only candidate qualified and prepared to continue representing District 3 on the School Board,” Brill said in response to a Palm Beach Post survey.  

Professional history: Brill is a broker associate with The Keyes Company and the vice chair of the school board. She previously worked in marketing for RCA Records and Forbes Inc. in New York, and she later worked as a marketing manager for Deutsche Bank in Palm Beach.  

Education: A master of business administration and a bachelor's in organization management from Palm Beach Atlantic University and an associate’s degree from Rockland Community College in New York. 

Children in the district: None. In the past, four of Brill’s children attended school in Palm Beach County.  

Social media presence: Brill uses social media to commemorate annual events — including Holocaust Remembrance Day, World Kindness Day and Pride Month – and to share her activities in the community and the school district.  

Criminal history: None found.  

Media coverage: Brill made the news in 2020 after ending her campaign for a County Commission seat, citing the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to continue serving public schools. She again made headlines in 2021 after pushing for a possible merger between the school district’s police department and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, an idea that then-Superintendent Donald Fennoy reportedly quashed, and a proposal that Brill continues to support.   

Endorsements: Brill provided a list of more than 40 endorsements, including Women’s Issues Now, the Palm Beach County Police Benevolent Association, the Classroom Teachers Association, the Equality Florida Action PAC, the Service Employees International Union of Florida, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, The Economic Council PAC of Palm Beach County, BizPac of Palm Beach County and the Palm Beach-Treasure Coast AFL-CIO. Her list also includes endorsements from U.S. House members, state senators, county commissioners and several mayors.

Finances: As of June 17, Brill raised more than $116,000. Her contributions include several $1,000 donations from the organizations endorsing her, along with $250 from Lew Crampton, a Palm Beach Town Council member.  

Connor Frontera 

Connor Frontera © Provided by Connor Frontera Connor Frontera

Age and residence: Frontera, 29, lives in unincorporated Palm Beach County west of Lantana. 


Video: School Board candidate blasts Palm Beach County Commissioners over 2020 mask mandate (The Palm Beach Post)

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Platform: One of Frontera’s top priorities is curriculum reform, which includes less reliance on technology and greater focus on a traditional pen-and-paper education. Frontera also said he opposes critical race theory and any lessons that expose children to “sexually explicit materials.” He supports fiscal responsibility, school safety and parents’ right to express concerns and make medical decisions for their children.  

“We the people, we the parents, are fed up with the school board's disgusting treatment of our parents and children, and we are standing up for what is right and just,” Frontera said in his survey response.  

Professional history: He works as a law clerk and owns a tutoring business called Frugal Tutors Inc. Frontera also teaches music throughout the United States, and he won the 2019 Florida State Harmonica Championship, according to his website.  

Education: Frontera is pursuing a juris doctor at Nova Southeastern University's Shepard Broad College of Law. He also earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and law from Brooklyn College.  

Children in the district: None.  

Social media presence: Frontera uses social media to share events he attended, including a night of prayer hosted by Save Our Schools America, a candidate meet-and-greet hosted by the Trumpsterz group, and an event hosted by BEST, or Building Education for Students Together. He also uses Facebook to make campaign promises.  

“Boys are NOT girls. Girls are NOT boys. It is simple biology,” Frontera said in a March 19 post. “When I am elected to school board, I will fight for every girl's right to compete in girl's athletics without anyone having an unfair advantage.” 

“When I am elected, I will personally see to it that every child is taught that the United States of America is the greatest country in the world,” he wrote June 14.  

Criminal history: None found.  

Endorsements: Alan Bergstein, president of the Judeo/Christian Republican Club in Boca Raton, has personally endorsed Frontera. 

Finances: As of June 17, Frontera has raised more than $10,700. 

Bailey K. Lashells 

Bailey K. Lashells © Provided by Lashells Bailey K. Lashells

Age and residence: Bailey Lashells, 38, lives in Lake Worth Beach. 

Platform: Ending critical race theory, or CRT, is the first issue listed on Lashells’ website. Describing what she viewed as CRT, Lashells wrote about  the time her daughter came home from elementary school with a friend. The girls, ages 5 and 6, were shaken from a history lesson on the segregation of white and Black students. "The fact that this was taught to such young children was deeply disturbing,” Lashells said on her website, questioning “why these two innocent little girls have to understand the racial injustice our country went through many years ago at their age.” 

Describing her view of an age-appropriate discussion, Lashells said she was asked a question — “Why is my skin darker, and mine lighter?” — and that she responded by saying “one had a better suntan than the other.”  

"That was an answer both girls understood and it made sense in their young minds,” her website continues.  

Lashells' other priorities include school safety, zero-based budgeting, transparency, career exposure for students and the use of accurate lessons that emphasize “the greatness of America and her struggle throughout history.” She also opposes medical mandates and standardized grading.  

“Upon doing my own research I realized just how many issues there really are in a system that needs drastic change,” Lashells said in her survey response. “I am hoping to be part of that change.”  

Professional history: She owns Lashells Photography.  

Children in the district: She has two children in Palm Beach County schools.  

Social media presence: Lashells mainly posts about her family and her school board campaign. “It is important to me as a parent, and community member to regain control of our schools and ensure we all have a say in what is going on with our children,” she said in a June 13 Facebook post. 

Criminal history: None found in the past 10 years

Media coverage: Lashells and her daughter, Fiona, made headlines and public appearances with Gov. Ron DeSantis after Fiona refused to wear a facemask to her elementary school, leading to nearly 40 days of suspensions last year.  

Finances: As of June 17, Lashells raised more than $2,100. 

Kristen Marie Stevenson 

Kristen Marie Stevenson © Provided by Stevenson Kristen Marie Stevenson

Age and residence: Kristen Stevenson, 41, lives in unincorporated Palm Beach County west of Boca Raton.  

Platform: Stevenson hopes to foster more parent and community involvement in the classroom, and more frequent use of hands-on lessons that require teamwork. She also promises to work toward a merger between the school district’s police department and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.  

Stevenson supports healthier lunches, expanded foreign language programs, improved district facilities, additional community service programs and more transparency about where the district spends its money.  

She opposes mask mandates and the increasing reliance on technology in education. She also opposes conversations on gender, race and sexual orientation at the elementary level, calling the topics “divisive rhetoric.”  

“There has been a strong disconnect between the school board and parents/families in the district,” she said in her survey response. “I want to restore the trust between children, parents and schools through transparency, communication, academic curriculum over social curriculum, teamwork and discussion/project-based learning.”  

Professional history: Stevenson worked as a classroom teacher and volleyball coach in New York for several years. She also worked at the University of Phoenix doing corporate education contracts, and she worked on digital education consulting for Cengage Learning from 2013 to 2018, before she became a stay-at-home mom.  

Education: She has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from San Diego State University and a master’s degree in education from the College of Saint Rose. 

Children in the district: Stevenson has four children, including two currently in local schools.  

Social media presence: Stevenson mainly posts about her family and her school board campaign.  

Criminal history: None found.  

Media coverage: In a June appearance on WPTV-Channel 5, Stevenson supported the Palm Beach County School Board’s plan to adopt a policy that acknowledged the Parents’ Bill of Rights, which Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law last year. "I think that will make a lot of us feel more confident in sending our kids back to school in the fall,” Stevenson said. 

Finances: As of June 17, Stevenson raised more than $7,300, including more than $1,700 between five leaders at the Florida Panthers Hockey Club. Among them was her husband, Rob, who works as senior vice president of the organization.

Giuseppe Sabella is an education reporter at The Palm Beach Post, part of the USA TODAY Florida Network. You can reach him at gsabella@pbpost.com. Help support our journalism and subscribe today. 

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: 3 newcomers challenge longtime school board member to represent W. Boynton, Delray Beach

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