Broward Schools Superintendent Vickie Cartwright could finally lose her job on Tuesday.
Broward School Board Chair Lori Alhadeff has said that she will ask fellow board members to fire Cartwright without cause, according to sources. Cartwright would receive the 60-day notice required under her contract and could stay with the district until March 25. This request came soon after another board member, Allen Zeman, filed a motion to fire Cartwright but request that she stay on until June 30.
Alhadeff has said that she believes that the termination should be done quickly and that it is not good for the district to continue under the leadership of Cartwright. Zeman, however, has said he wants to hear Cartwright’s update on the progress she has made over the past 90 days.
Board members Torey Alston, Brenda Fam and Daniel Foganholi have previously voted to replace Cartwright, although the firing was rescinded in December after new board members took office. If Alhadeff and Zeman vote to fire her, there could be a majority at the Tuesday meeting. “I’ve not determined how I’m going to vote on that motion next week,” Zeman said last week regarding his own motion to let Cartwright go, according to the Miami Herald.
Cartwright has said she wants to present the work she has done over the past 90 days. She had been given until January 24 to show that she has made improvements.
Under Alhadeff’s proposal, the board would hire an interim superintendent, and applications have already been received. Alhadeff wants to reopen the interim position so others can apply. Zeman wants to hire a permanent superintendent before Cartwright leaves.
An item on the Broward County School Board meeting agenda for Tuesday spells out Alhadeff’s proposal, as follows:
“Terminate Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Vickie L. Cartwright without cause, with a termination date of March 25, 2023, in compliance with the sixty (60) calendar days written notification requirement in Article 10.1 of the Superintendent’s contract. Immediately begin a search for an Interim Superintendent. The Interim Superintendent selection process will include recruitment (screening of applications), School Board selection and interviews of the top three (3) finalists, and final selection of an Interim Superintendent, with a final selection and School Board approval date on or about February 15, 2023. Continue National Search for a new Superintendent with an expected start date of no later than July 1, 2023. Using the placement model of hiring.”
Another item on the agenda, a proposal from Zeman, is as follows:
“Terminate the Broward County Public Schools Superintendent without cause with a termination date of July 1, 2023 (158 days.) Continue National Search for a new Superintendent with an expected start date of no later than July 1, 2023.”
Just before the school board is set to vote on whether or not to fire Cartwright, an administrator with the Florida Department of Education met with her to discuss how the district has complied with requests made on Sept. 30 for documents related to problems identified in a statewide grand jury report that had been released.
The letter from Scott Straus, vice chancellor of the Department of Education’s Office of Safe Schools, was negative. “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. This morning, by your own admission, you should have had better oversight to ensure that these documents were promptly forward to our attention. After making the Office of Safe Schools wait for 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.”
Cartwright has been strongly criticized by the Department of Education over the past months. She was criticized in 2021 for the district’s decision to defy state orders banning mask mandates in schools and then following the release of the grand jury report, which is the rationale Gov. Ron DeSantis used to replace four school board members. The chair of the Florida Board of Education said Cartwright was too slow in making changes and that she should be removed.
Meanwhile, Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony has again declined to sign an agreement with Broward County to provide 911 services. The Broward County Commission agreed to remain with the Broward Sheriff’s Office to provide 911 services after some commissioners said they wanted to end the relationship and go with another vendor or run it themselves. This matter is also set to be discussed at the Tuesday meeting.
Tony sent the commission a letter saying he would not sign because there were major differences between him and county leadership. He believes the BSO should have complete control over the dispatch system. The 911 system is owned and financially supported by the Broward County government, but is operated by the BSO. The sheriff had committed to managing the 911 system with no change in service until the commission can arrange a solution.
County Commissioner Mark Bogen has said that if Tony does not want to sign the contract, then the county should move on from BSO.
Also, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Safety Commission has created a policy to guide police departments on how to respond during and after an active shooter emergency.
This is likely to become a bill that will be presented to the Florida Legislature that will require agencies in Florida to have an emergency plan in place, including immediate steps to halt violence and engaging with an active threat.
David Volz has been a reporter for numerous community news publications throughout South Florida over the past two decades, as well as the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and South Florida Business Journal. He covers local government, schools, sports, culture, faith groups and workplaces.