New board member drafts proposal to fire Broward superintendent again
South Florida Sun Sentinel | By Scott Travis | January 17, 2023
Broward Schools Superintendent Vickie Cartwright could be fired a second time next week under a proposal by new School Board member Allen Zeman.
Zeman’s request, which is expected to be publicly released later today, is scheduled to be discussed at a Jan. 24 meeting. If approved, Cartwright would stay through the end of June, which is nearly 100 days longer than the 60-day notice required in her contract.
That could be a point of contention, as several other board members have wanted Cartwright replaced immediately with an interim superintendent.
Zeman said Cartwright hired most of the current senior administrators, and the proposal would allow the district to finish out the school year without an abrupt leadership change.
The School Board has received six applications for an interim leader. The board is expected to vote Wednesday — six days before Cartwright’s fate is decided — whether to hire a search firm to look for a permanent superintendent.
There are already four other board members on the nine-member board who have previously voted to sever ties with Cartwright, so a fifth vote by Zeman would likely create the majority needed to fire her.
But Zeman insists he hasn’t made a final decision, despite drafting the proposal. He said the board promised in December to decide Cartwright’s fate on Jan. 24, so this is an opportunity to let the public know she will be fired or retained at this meeting.
“Just as a matter of procedure, people who make the motion don’t have to vote for it,” Zeman said. “I wanted to make sure anyone who wanted to speak on this knows it’s going to be coming up. We want to make things clear and end the circus.”
At this meeting, Cartwright is scheduled to give the School Board a progress report on issues she agreed to tackle, including declining enrollment, mediocre student achievement, the slow progress of the school construction program and poor relationships with community groups.
“I look forward to presenting my 90-day plan follow-up to the board,” Cartwright said in a text when asked to comment about Zeman’s proposal.
Cartwright was hired in August 2021 as interim superintendent and then as permanent in February 2022. Her job first was put in jeopardy in late August after Gov. Ron DeSantis removed and replaced four School Board members following a scathing grand jury report. The appointed board members complained Cartwright wasn’t doing enough to change the culture of the district.
The DeSantis-controlled board voted 5-4 on Nov. 14 to fire her following a review of critical audits related to district vendors.
But the move was widely criticized because of how it happened.
There was nothing on the Nov. 14 agenda suggesting a vote on the superintendent’s future would happen at that meeting. Three weeks earlier, the board had voted unanimously to put Cartwright on a 90-day improvement plan, which was to end in late January.
On Dec. 13, the board, now consisting of a majority of elected board members, voted to rescind Cartwright’s firing but keep her on the 90-day plan. Supporting the move were Zeman and new board member Jeff Holness as well as three board members who had opposed Cartweight’s firing, Sarah Leonardi, Debbi Hixon and Nora Rupert.
Chairwoman Lori Alhadeff, who had opposed firing Cartwright in November, joined DeSantis appointee Torey Alston and new member Brenda Fam in voting not to rescind the termination.
“We are delaying the inevitable,” Alhadeff told the board in December. “We are kicking the can, leaving the district shaky, not knowing what’s going to happen. It’s important to realize when our superintendent is in over her head.”
On Dec. 22, DeSantis appointed former board member Daniel Foganholi — who had made the motion to fire Cartwright in November — to fill a vacant seat on the board, meaning there were now at least four votes to fire Cartwright for good.