Broward Schools superintendent fires back in defense after state’s scathing letter on safety
South Florida Sun-Sentinel | By Scott Travis | January 25, 2023
Broward Schools Superintendent Vickie Cartwright is fighting back against a scathing school safety letter from a state official that came a day before the School Board forced her out, calling the letter “factually inaccurate.”
On Monday, an administrator with the state Department of Education made a surprise visit to the district to see how well it had complied with a request for documents in September related to the issues identified in a statewide grand jury report.
“This letter memorializes and confirms that you failed to comply — even by the most modest means — to turn over documents that our office previously requested from you,” Scott Strauss, vice chancellor, for the Office of Safe Schools, wrote Monday.
The letter said Cartwright waited until the surprise visit to turn over seven documents requested, including ones related to the district’s Promise diversion program, the reporting of crimes and incidents on campus, a survey of 41,000 parents related to school safety and safety-related initiatives in the $800 million bond referendum.
Torey Alston, one of Cartwright’s critics, referred to the letter Tuesday when he gave a long list of concerns about Cartwright. He asked her to resign. The board voted unanimously to reach a mutual separation with her, which is scheduled to be negotiated with Board Chairwoman Lori Alhadeff next week.
At the meeting, Cartwright highlighted some of her concerns about the letter. On Wednesday, she provided a formal letter disputing Strauss’s allegations.Broward-Sup.-fires-back_fldoe-letter
“I would like to state the letter is factually inaccurate because it stated we were missing seven items,” she wrote. “As you and Florida Department of Education staff indicated in my office after the letter was released, there were only four missing items.”
She said no one prior to Monday had given them a written list of documents they were seeking. When the department visited the district on Sept. 1, officials left with two boxes of documents, she wrote.
The Office of Safe Schools never presented its request for additional documentation in writing, which would have allowed the district to verify the request was satisfied, she wrote.
“I also want to express trepidation that if the [Office of Safe Schools] was aware of any outstanding items that would impact the lives and safety of students and staff in BCPS, why wasn’t it brought to our immediate attention rather than after four and a half months after the initial visit?” she wrote. “This delay in communication could have potentially jeopardized the safety of our students and staff if the missing documentation impacts school safety.”
Strauss could not be reached for comment Wednesday. His letter on Monday said Cartwright acknowledged mistakes.
“This morning, by your own admission, you should have had better oversight to ensure that these documents were promptly forwarded to our attention,” Strauss wrote. “After making the [Office of Safe Schools] wait well over four months, it speaks volumes that you were able to provide most of these documents in just a matter of hours during this morning’s meeting.”Broward-Sup.-fires-back_Cartwright-letter
Given the scrutiny the district has received since a statewide grand jury report, “one would naturally conclude that you would swiftly comply and produce these documents for our staff to review. But, as the [grand jury] highlighted, the district’s failure to produce documents appears to be a chronic issue,” Strauss wrote.
“To the extent that your continued non-compliance threatens the lives of children and staff attending school in your district, we intend to hold you fully accountable,” Strauss wrote.