Five more people apply to lead Broward schools, but only two are 'qualified'

In total, the district has now received 31 formal applications.

via Pixabay

Five more people have applied to be the next leader of the Broward County Public Schools — slightly broadening an initial pool of applicants that some school board members had criticized as narrow and unimpressive.

But of the five new applicants, just two are considered qualified, according to the school district.

In total, the district has now received 31 formal applications. Of those, 17 are considered qualified for the position. One of the contenders has since withdrawn from the search, leaving 16 qualified applicants. More information on those candidates is available here.

The five additional candidates are:

  • Santarvis Brown, faculty member in Florida International University’s Management Leadership Certificate Program
  • John Dunnuck III, Senior Vice President of Finance & Operations at Broward College
  • Sito Narcisse, Superintendent of the East Baton Rouge Parish School System
  • Scott Paul, Curriculum Coordinator, Oklahoma City Public Schools
  • Ritaparna (Rita) Raichoudhuri, former Superintendent of Kalamazoo Public Schools

Sito Narcisse and Rita Raichoudhuri are the two candidates deemed by the school district as qualified for the role.

The Broward County School Board voted earlier this month to reopen the search for the district’s next top leader, after the superintendent of the Clark County (Nevada) School District — the nation’s fifth largest school district — expressed interest in the job. 

But just hours after the announcement that Jesus Jara was considering the post, he dropped out of the running. Dr. Earlean Smiley is now serving as the interim superintendent. 

A search consultant hired by the district and some board members have raised concerns that Florida’s divisive education politics are driving promising candidates away. Broward County’s legacy of upheavalinfighting and mismanagement could also be a factor. 

The school board is scheduled to meet today to pick the semifinalists for the job.

Broward’s school district has more than 270,000 students and an annual budget of $4 billion.

In a statement, the school board had said it had “launched a national search for a permanent superintendent and … is seeking a highly qualified visionary superintendent to lead the district and serve as a student-oriented, transformational leader, who will successfully address concerns and issues communicated by the entire school community and residents throughout the county.”

They’re hoping to avoid the serial controversies of her predecessor, Vickie Cartwright, who had been strongly criticized by the state Department of Education before being fired by the board.

She was blasted in 2021 for the district’s decision to defy state orders banning mask mandates in schools and then following the release of a 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 also said Cartwright was too slow in making changes, including on school safety, and that she should be removed.

City & State contributed background. This story is published as part of a collaboration between City & State Florida and WLRN NewsKate Payne is WLRN's education reporter. Reach her at kpayne@wlrnnews.org

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