Broward County Public Schools
v cartwright

Broward County (Fla.) board reprimands superintendent but opts not to fire her

Oct. 26, 2022
Board members appointed in August by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have been critical of Vickie Cartwright's leadership

The Broward County (Fla.) School Board has opted not to fire Superintendent Vickie Cartwright for the time being, and instead voted to reprimand her on a long list of issues and ordered her to provide a progress report in 90 days.

The Miami Herald reported that the board vote came during a meeting that stretched deep into the night.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis four board members in August after removing four sitting board members, all elected, after a statewide grand jury report recommended their removal. The grand jury blamed them for a school renovation bond program that has ballooned to more than $1 billion.

For more than four hours, board members reviewed Cartwright’s record and voiced concerns; some called for her dismissal. They ended the marathon session by tasking her to write a detailed memo about what was discussed and send it to board members by Friday. They instructed her to use that document as an action plan for the next three months.

The board unanimously hired Cartwright as interim superintendent last July. That support held strong through February, when the board voted 8-1 to keep Cartwright as the permanent executive of the district, which serves more than 260,000 students and employs more than 30,000. Cartwright is the first female superintendent in the district’s 107-year history.

But DeSantis’ removal of the four board members led Cartwright’s popularity to falter. On Sept. 15, the chair of the Florida Board of Education asked whether the board could suspend Cartwright.

School Board Chair Torey Alston, appointed by DeSantis, introduced an agenda item about the “direction of the school district.” He attached a one-page list of 15 complaints regarding Cartwright’s leadership skills. Alston’s grievances included Cartwright’s lack of strategy to help the nearly 119,000 under-performing students affected by the pandemic and to address the district’s student enrollment decline. He also condemned her for what he said was playing politics, dividing the community, failing to communicate well with the board and not addressing the grand jury recommendations fast enough.

Cartwright had prepared a 48-page detailed rebuttal to Alston’s charges.

. He said he worried if the board fired Cartwright, it would create chaos, likely be reversed by a new board and turn off potential superintendent candidates in the future. “In 28 days, a new board comes in and reverses everything that we’ve done — what does that do?” he said.

Sarah Leonardi, one of the elected board members, defended Cartwright, countering Alston’s list point-by-point and repeatedly saying “not true.”

 “Dr. Cartwright is one of the least political people I know,” she said. “Is communication perfect? Absolutely not. This is another item that takes time to improve, and I genuinely believe the superintendent is taking steps to do that. This whole country is divided — are we to blame her for those divisions?” 

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