Miami Herald | By David Goodhue | July 22, 2021
The Broward School Board on Thursday unanimously chose a former superintendent from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, who faced criticism there from some principals as interim head of the district until a permanent replacement is hired to succeed Robert Runcie, who resigned following his grand jury perjury indictment in April.
Vickie Cartwright, 50, narrowly edged Robert Schiller, 74, who has made a career of successfully overseeing the transition of several major urban school districts from outgoing to permanent superintendents.
These include the school districts in Los Angeles, Baltimore and Falls Church in northern Virginia, according to the résumé he provided the School Board.
The initial board vote was 5-4 in favor of Cartwright, but board member Donna Korn, who favored Schiller, asked the board to vote again to show unified support for Cartwright. The official vote for her was 9-0.
The vote came after both candidates answered questions from board members and explained their respective bona fides Thursday morning into the early afternoon.
Board Member Nora Rupert was so supportive of Cartwright that she told her colleagues on the dais that she was “shocked” that so many wanted to hire Schiller for the temporary post.
“I’m truly shocked by this,” she said. “My heart is broken. I don’t know what else to say.”
WORKED IN ORANGE COUNTY SCHOOLS, NEAR ORLANDO
Before heading the Oshkosh Area School District, Cartwright was associate superintendent for Exceptional Learning Education for Orange County Public Schools in the Orlando area.
Those who supported Schiller — Board Chair Rosalind Osgood, Korn and board members Laurie Rich Levinson and Ann Murray — said they did so because of his professional background and because he emphasized that an interim superintendent’s main focus should be on smoothly transitioning the district until a permanent hire is chosen.
Schiller said he would not be there to create his own priorities, but would follow those of the School Board. Osgood asked him how he would navigate the district in its differences with state leaders on diversity issues, particularly those impacting LGBTQ students.
“They are all of our students. I will not get into the cultural wars of what politicians are trying to do. Your policies are my policies,” he said.
Osgood said Cartwright, on the other hand, answered questions and represented herself in a way that came across as if she was vying for the permanent job. The board was clear that whoever is chosen as interim could not be considered for that post, she said.
“Our role today is to support someone as an interim superintendent,” Osgood said.
Cartwright will meet with Osgood Monday to negotiate a salary. She made $200,758 in Wisconsin, the Oshkosh Northwestern reporter. Runcie, who has pleaded not guilty in the perjury charge, is scheduled to work through Aug. 10. He has been working in an advisory role since stepping down officially as superintendent in May.
The School Board is scheduled to vote on the agreement during a meeting Wednesday.
ISSUES WHEN SHE LEFT WISCONSIN DISTRICT
Rich Levinson said one of her main concerns with Cartwright was the way she left her job in Wisconsin, a post she held since 2018. Her resignation in March came four months after a group of Oshkosh principals sent a letter to the district’s Board of Education stating they lacked confidence in her leadership, the Oshkosh Examiner reported.
“To me, that is a big problem,” Rich Levinson said.
Cartwright addressed the issues she’s had at the Wisconsin district in her closing statement to board members, saying her accomplishments there far outshone her detractors’ criticisms of her.
“I encourage you to please look beyond just what Google is. It does not define who I am. Beyond the first page, there’s a lot more there,” she said.
Cartwright also noted that the majority of her administrative experience was in Orange County, the fourth-largest school district in Florida and ninth largest in the nation, where she held a variety of senior cabinet positions from 2006 until 2018, when she accepted the superintendent’s job in Wisconsin.
“My primary experience is from Orange County, which is a very, very large urban district similar to Broward,” she said.