Broward school board rates superintendent as ‘effective,’ but some take issue with her leadership

WLRN | By Kate Payne | October 12, 2022

Broward County School Board members rated the district’s superintendent as “effective” in their first evaluation of her job performance – including some of the school board’s newly appointed members. But some are also questioning Vickie Cartwright’s leadership after she announced the district will have to restart its years-long search for a new chief facilities officer.

At a school board meeting on Tuesday, Cartwright pulled the latest candidate from consideration, after district staff determined the individual lied on the job application.

“We’re going to start the search on this from scratch,” Cartwright said.

The move came after the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported the district has botched the marathon search for a new facilities chief by not properly rating candidates’ qualifications and not fully vetting them for the job.

The statewide grand jury report that was publicly released in August found that a lack of leadership in the district’s facilities department has contributed to the district’s mishandling of a massive school reconstruction effort, which has fallen years behind schedule and cost millions of dollars more than initially estimated.

Gov. Ron DeSantis removed four sitting board members from office, based on the grand jury’s findings that they were incompetent and failed to hold district officials accountable.

A common refrain from multiple board members at Tuesday’s meeting was that issues with the district’s hiring process have been going on “for years”, with Board Member Sarah Leonardi asserting that some candidates had applied for the facilities job and never heard back.

“I’m confused as to why that has been going on for years, that people are applying for this job and not even getting an email or a phone call back about it,” Leonardi said, “especially considering the … I would call it a crisis in our facilities situation here in this district.”

Board Member Debbi Hixon said the issues with the district’s hiring process go beyond the facilities position.

“There are a lot of flaws with our hiring process, even with teacher aides and things of that nature. So it’s a bigger scale than just this one position,” Hixon said. “So I really would like to ask that we look at all of those processes.”

Board Chair Torey Alston said, ultimately, the hiring issues are Cartwright’s responsibility.

“The process, the people – along with everything else that’s been said – is absolutely a colossal failure,” Alston said.

Board Member Daniel Foganholi called for accountability. Foganholi is one of five of the board’s current members who was appointed by DeSantis.

“The governor put me in this position because I have a responsibility to do something about it. I’m putting it out there right now: We have a responsibility to do something about it,” Foganholi said. “If not, we’re going to be enablers to the problem, enablers to the toxic behaviors that have gone on.”

Cartwright says she’s directing the district’s human tesources staff to review internal policies and said she’s committed to recruiting qualified candidateswith K-12 experience for the facilities position.

“I will continue to be adamant, to continue to go out there, to continue to have conversations, to continue to work with my networking in order to try to get people to apply for the job,” she said.

But Cartwright acknowledged that hiring for the job will be difficult because of the district’s “struggles”.

“This is a risk move for an individual to come in for this particular position,” Cartwright said.

The board had been scheduled to discuss their interim evaluations of Cartwright’s job performance at Tuesday’s meeting, but postponed the discussion.

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