Should the fired Broward schools chief be allowed to stay? It’s again up for discussion
South Florida Sun-Sentinel | By Lisa J. Huriash | December 1, 2022
The fate of the fired Broward schools chief again is coming up for discussion, but this time, the majority of decision-makers wouldn’t be School Board members appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The School Board is set to discuss at its Dec. 13 meeting whether to keep Broward Schools Superintendent Vickie Cartwright, two sources familiar with the matter told the South Florida Sun Sentinel on Thursday.
Cartwright was terminated on Nov. 14, just as a Republican-majority School Board was leaving their positions and capping several months of drama over key school decisions.
If the new School Board were to allow the superintendent to stay permanently, they “are not listening to the feelings in the community,” said Daniel Foganholi, one of the five DeSantis appointees who supported firing Cartwright last month. “I believe this would be a move to go backwards. I did my part to do what was right.
“In this situation, it looks like something is becoming very political. What we did wasn’t political at all, we did what was right. The pressure is not on my back, it’s on them. I just hope they listen to the community.”
In addition to Foganholi, also voting to terminate Cartwright were the other four DeSantis-appointed School Board members: Torey Alston, Manuel “Nandy” A. Serrano, Ryan Reiter and Kevin Tynan. On firing Cartwright, all four elected board members — Lori Alhadeff, Debbi Hixon, Sarah Leonardi and Nora Rupert — voted against it.
It remains to be seen whether the planned discussion about Cartwright’s future would gain traction. School Board members either declined to comment Thursday, or could not be reached for comment.
None of the four newly elected School Board members — Jeff Holness, Brenda Fam, Allen Zeman or Rod Velez — had voiced support for rescinding the decision to fire her. “When people that are in a seat are doing something, it’s wise for the person who will occupy the seat next week not to pass judgment,” Zeman had told the Sun Sentinel on Nov. 15.
Fam has spoken at several meetings in favor of firing Cartwright. Meanwhile, Velez was not sworn in last week because of a lingering clemency issue related to a 1995 felony conviction.
On Thursday, the school district would not confirm that the item on Cartwright would be addressed Dec. 13, saying in an email statement that “the Superintendent’s focus continues to be on the operations of BCPS” and that the agenda will be made public in the coming days.
Cartwright started as interim superintendent in August 2021 and became permanent superintendent in February. Her contract was to expire in late 2024.
The Broward School Board is meant to be a nonpartisan political body. It has been historically controlled by Democrats in the heavily blue county, but it temporarily became a Republican majority board this year.
The shake-up came when a grand jury report, completed in April 2021, was released this year. The report blasted the school district’s culture and execution of an $800 million bond referendum for school construction, and issued criticisms about safety issues. DeSantis took the report’s recommendation, and suspended and replaced four School Board members.
An additional School Board member, Foganholi, was appointed by DeSantis in May to replace Rosalind Osgood, who stepped down to become a state senator.
Of the governor’s five appointees, only one — Alston — now remains on the board since voters chose new members in the November election.
The wording of the upcoming Dec. 13 meeting is not yet clear: Board members might be asked to rehire Cartwright, or they could be asked to rescind the vote to terminate her. In either case, the end result would be the same.
But before that conversation is a meeting Tuesday afternoon, where board members are scheduled to discuss the interim and superintendent searches, including the job description and salary range.
Cartwright has a 60-day window to stay in place until the search process to replace her concludes.