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Broward County (Fla.) board decides again to remove superintendent

Jan. 26, 2023
Vickie Cartwright had been fired in November, but the board rescinded the dismissal in December; now she and the board have reached an agreement on her departure.

The Broward County (Fla.) School Board has decided once again to sever ties with its superintendent.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that board members negotiated with Superintendent Vickie Cartwright to reach a mutual separation; her last day is likely to be sometime within the month.

Cartwright’s future with the Broward County district has been in question for several months. The board fired her in November, then rescinded the dismissal in December after newly elected board members were seated.

Broward County has an enrollment of about 256,000 students and is the sixth-largest public school system in the United States.

Cartwright said after the meeting that she would have liked to stay in the job. "But at the same time, this is in the best interest of our students because that's what it's about,” she said.

Board member Nora Rupert said Cartwright did the best she could leading a district in turmoil. But other board members gave a harsher critique.

"Dr. Cartwright has been a distraction,” board member Torey Alston said. “How many more wake-up calls do we need. I desire a superintendent that will respect all board members and not pit one of us against another."

Cartwright fired back at Alston, saying he was "grandstanding without substance." She asked him to "please stop the public humiliation."

Board member Sarah Leonardi, who has supported Cartwright in the past, voiced frustration that Cartwright didn't resign prior to the meeting. Instead, Cartwright gave a one-hour presentation Tuesday morning defending her work.

During her presentation, Cartwright said graduation rates are up, particularly among minority students. She said she has taken steps to fix the troubled $800 million bond program, address a backlog in public-records requests and improve communication with board members.

Cartwright started as interim superintendent in the district in August 2021. She was appointed to job on a permanent basis in February 2022.

The August 2022 release of a statewide grand jury report put her job in serious jeopardy. At the grand jury's recommendation, Florida Gov. DeSantis removed four Democratic board members and replaced them with four Republicans. That gave DeSantis appointees a majority on the board.

By October, the five DeSantis appointees were discussing weekly whether to fire Cartwright.

The board’s vote in November to oust her was widely criticized as unfair to Cartwright; it came three weeks after the board had voted to put her on a 90-day improvement plan.

After several elected board members were seated, the board voted Dec. 13 to rescind her firing, but kept her on probation.

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