Broward schools chief is deemed ‘effective’ leader amid tumult from grand jury report
South Florida Sun-Sentinel | By Scott Travis | October 10, 2022
Vickie Cartwright is doing a satisfactory job leading the Broward school district during a time of turmoil, School Board members say.
In her first evaluation since being hired as the permanent superintendent in February, board members rated Cartwright as “effective,” the second-highest of four possible scores.
The interim evaluation — which is scheduled to be approved Tuesday by the School Board — was completed just a few weeks after Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended and replaced four board members at the request of a statewide grand jury.
The four new DeSantis appointees were given a choice of whether to evaluate Cartwright. Ryan Reiter was the only one who completed a review, rating Cartwright “highly effective.”
“With the information gathered by the Board and the brief observance thus far, Dr. Cartwright‘s performance has been objectively satisfactory and has exceeded expectations in certain areas of concern,” Reiter wrote.
The five other board members who reviewed Cartwright — Lori Alhadeff, Daniel Foganholi, Debbi Hixon, Sarah Leonardi and Nora Rupert — rated her effective.
The school district has been under a microscope since the scathing grand jury released on Aug. 19 blasted the district’s culture and management and led DeSantis to suspend and replace four board members. The grand jury report was completed in April 2021, before Cartwright started with the district, but was sealed for 16 months due to legal challenges.
Still, the chairman of the state Board of Education said in a recent meeting that Cartwright should be removed from office, arguing she has continued to allow problems identified in the grand jury to persist.
Cartwright has faced other controversies in her short tenure for demoting several Black administrators, the district trying to give a vendor a contract without competitive bids, approving separation payments to former administrators without board approval and the district’s bungling the hiring of a chief facilities officer.
In their evaluations, board members acknowledged long-standing problems in the district, including the mismanagement of a billion-dollar school renovation program. They also voiced frustration that Broward is the only district in South Florida that’s not A-rated based on student achievement. But they said Cartwright inherited these challenges from former Superintendent Robert Runcie, and she was taking steps to fix them.
The board gave Cartwright an overall score of 3.2 out of 4, which is better than the 2.8 score Runcie received in his last two years as superintendent. Although some board members rated Runcie highly effective every year, his overall score was brought down by poor reviews from three board members who wanted to fire him.
Cartwright’s highest marks came from herself in a 33-page self-appraisal. She gave herself a “highly effective” score of 3.7 out of 4.Broward-superintendent_interim_evals-1
She rated herself perfectly in five out of seven areas measured on the evaluation: academics, leadership, employee management, community relations and professional responsibilities. Her only average scores were in communications and fiscal responsibility.
“Our District has maintained a strong reputation for academic excellence with high-quality programs and dedicated teachers and staff,” Cartwright wrote.
Several board members said she represented the district well in front of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, which praised her progress on safety measures taken in the wake of the Parkland shooting.
Hixon praised Cartwright’s professionalism.
“She keeps her composure and listens to concerns without talking over anyone,” Hixon said. “She is kind and shows compassion when speaking with others.”
Foganholi said Cartwright has done a great job being involved in the community, including visiting schools and showing up at meetings. But he said she has some hard work ahead.
“The culture that is within this organization needs to change,” he wrote. “I believe the previous administrations put systems and behaviors in place that are not only toxic but counterproductive and you cannot allow this to continue.”Broward-superintendent_self-appraisal
The toughest review came from Leonardi, who gave Cartwright an overall score of 2.7 out of 4, which is on the low end of effective, and scores of “needs improvement” in the areas of employee management and community relations.
Leonardi said advisory boards have reached out to her,saying Cartwright has been reluctant to hear their concerns.
“At the heart of what is broken in our District … is transparency, communication, and collaboration with our community,” Leonardi wrote. “I caution the Superintendent to take these issues seriously, and to not get caught up in the culture entrenched in the District. She brought a fresh perspective, approach, and voice when she joined us, and I advise her to stay true to that.”