Broward schools shakeup would cut academic jobs and boost public relations

South Florida Sun-Sentinel | By Scott Travis | May 16, 2022

Broward schools may cut more than $1 million in academic positions while boosting public-relations efforts by $218,000, under a proposed district shakeup from Superintendent Vickie Cartwright.

A reorganization plan, which Cartwright says would save $2.3 million, also overhauls the duties of administrators. The plan would eliminate 26 administrator positions but then creates 23 new positions, for a net cut of three positions.

The overhaul started in March, shortly after the School Board hired Cartwright for the permanent job. When she asked for two new deputy superintendents that cost more than $200,000 each, she said she would bring back a plan that saves the district money.

Most of the savings would come from unspecified middle- to lower-paying jobs. The plan would cut 20 filled and unfilled jobs from the teaching and learning department. These positions cost the district an average of $41,000 each in salary and benefits.

Seventeen vacant jobs, averaging $44,000 in salary and benefits, would be cut from the finance department.

The district’s student services department — which handles issues such as mental health, discipline, school climate and diversity — would lose the most higher-paying jobs, with eight positions costing more than $100,000 recommended for cuts and none added.

Faring much better would be the communications department, which handles public relations and marketing. It would receive a $218,000 increase to its budget, the most of any department.

Cartwright has proposed merging communications with the legislative affairs department, keeping all existing positions, adding a $185,000 executive director of communications position and increasing the compensation of a specialist from $105,000 to $112,000.

The chief of the department would move into a higher-level position that would include a $26,000 boost in pay and benefits. John Sullivan, the district’s legislative director who is now filling in as communications chief, is expected to get the job. His current salary without benefits is $162,000.

If the increase to the communications department is approved, it will be the second time in three years that the district expanded the department. In 2019, the School Board approved former Chief Communications Officer Kathy Koch’s request for three new positions. Koch said at the time the new positions were needed to improve the district’s image following a barrage of negative stories related to how the school district handled the Parkland shooting.

“I have concerns about continuing to increase that area, when the communications haven’t gotten any better,” said Rebecca Dahl, a retired principal who serves on several district committees. ““If they’re not doing their job, they don’t need to be there.”

Koch was criticized for working a second job on school district time as well as organizing a private rally for former Superintendent Robert Runcie that was held during the workday at the district headquarters. She resigned in March. Several board members have said communications have improved since Sullivan took over the department in March.

As to why the district needs to expand the department, as other departments face cuts, Sullivan wouldn’t say yet. He wouldn’t answer any questions Monday about Cartwright’s plan.

“The Superintendent looks forward to bringing the proposed Organizational Chart to the School Board meeting,” Sullivan said in an email. “Following the meeting, if you have any questions, we’ll be happy to address them.”

An executive summary attached to the agenda says the plan “best allocates resources and staff where they have the greatest impact on student needs” and reduces duplication.

“In addition, with declining student enrollment, there was a need to right-size district administration,” the summary says.

Whether the School Board will approve the plan Tuesday is unclear. At least two board members — Patti Good and Lori Alhadeff — said the changes should be discussed at length at a workshop before the board votes on it.

“It would give the board the opportunity to have a robust conversation and for the public to hear the rationale behind the new structure,” Alhadeff said Monday.

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