Three finalists chosen to interview for Broward schools superintendent

Peter Licata, Luis Solano and Sito Narcisse will meet with community stakeholders and school board members.

Photo by MChe Lee on Unsplash

The Broward County School Board narrowed down their choices for a new leader from seven candidates to three.

The board met Tuesday to vote on each of the seven semifinalists before settling on the three: Peter Licata, Luis Solano and Sito Narcisse.

The board hopes for a "transformational" leader to bring stability to a district that has seen both previous leaders ousted before their terms ended.

Licata is a Regional Superintendent in the School District of Palm Beach County. Narcisse is a Superintendent of East Baton Rouge Parish School System. Solano is a Deputy Superintendent in the Detroit Public Schools Community District. All three are men.

Those three will soon meet with community stakeholders and interview with board members as they look to become the leader of the nation's sixth largest school district.

The process selection, a ranked list of the top three candidates, was formed by the search firm hired by the district. Torey Alston objected to being forced to pick at least three candidates.

“I can't find three folks that are worthy, for me, to be a finalist,” said Alston, who voted for two candidates.

The board amended the procedure to pick “up to three” candidates. The three finalists will now have a final two-day interview process with board members and other groups on June 14 and 15.

They will meet with a “School Principal Focus Group” and a “Stakeholder Group” in addition to the one-on-one interviews with the School Board Members, according to district documents..

After the Board interviews each of the three candidates separately in public, they will pick a new leader.

More on the finalists

Peter Licata

Licata has served as the South Region Superintendent in the School District of Palm Beach County since 2019. A product of Broward County Public Schools, Licata worked as a classroom teacher, coach, assistant principal and principal in the SDPBC before moving into district administration. Licata is a frequent applicant to superintendent searches across Florida and was a semifinalist in Broward’s search in 2022 that led to the appointment of Vickie Cartwright.

  • describes himself as "born and raised in Broward County"
  • touts his experience building relationships in the South Florida community
  • past superintendent candidate in Brevard, Charlotte, Hillsborough, Indian River and Orange Counties

Read Licata's full application here.

Luis Solano

Solano has been with the Detroit Public Schools Community District since 2017, serving as the Deputy Superintendent of Labor and the Chief Operating Officer. Solano previously worked as an administrator in Collier County Public Schools, and as a teacher, assistant principal and principal in Miami-Dade County Public Schools. According to his application, Solano is fluent in Spanish and credits his teachers for helping him become the first in his family to fluently speak, read and write in English. Solano is also a U.S. Army veteran.

  • former principal of Miami Norland Senior High School in Miami Gardens
  • immigrated to the U.S. with his family at age 9
  • describes himself as a "strong bilingual communicator", an "innovator" and a "transformational instructional leader"

Read Solano's full application here.

Sito Narcisse

Narcisse has been the superintendent of East Baton Rouge Parish School System in Louisiana since 2021. Narcisse has also worked as a district administrator in Metro Nashville Public Schools and District of Columbia Public Schools. Previously, he worked as a teacher, assistant principal and principal at public schools in Williamson County, TN, Pittsburgh and Boston. The child of Haitian immigrants, Narcisse is fluent in Haitian Creole and French, according to his application. Narcisse is the only sitting superintendent in the finalist pool.

  • sitting superintendent during COVID
  • Alberto Carvalho — the former superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools and now the leader of the Los Angeles United School District — wrote Narcisse a letter of recommendation
  • faced criticism over a field trip that students say was a religious event billed as a college fair

Read Narcisse's full application here.

Controversy over Louisiana field trip

Last year, Narcisse promoted and spoke to students who attended a field trip billed as a college fair that students say was a religious event. Students were separated by gender during the controversial field trip.

“Female students listened to three speakers who spoke about personal experiences with being a virgin during college, sexual assault and suicide. Male students, however, mostly played games,” according to The Advocate's reporting.

The East Baton Rouge Parish school system issued a statement calling the event “an elevation of a traditional college and career fair.”

The statement also defended the district’s partnership with the local nonprofit that put on the event, 29:11 Mentoring Families, saying the group is providing “additional support services for students in our district.”

A teacher at the school, Brittney Bryant, attended the trip as a chaperone and wrote about it in a Facebook post.

“They talked about rape (and) forgiving the offender, suicide, prayer leadership, and many more dark controversial topics. We had females in the bathrooms crying due to the topics of discussion,” Bryant wrote. “What was sad to hear from students that there were transgender students who were bullied. Other students poured water on top of transgender students heads without any repercussions by any of the adults present.”

Board chair Lori Alhadeff addressed the concerns about Narcisse’s involvement in the event, which was not flagged by the search firm.

“I think some board members had some information on certain candidates that possibly I didn't have,” she told reporters after the meeting. “So my goal is that we all have the same information so that we can make the best decision possible.”

Failed vote for fourth candidate

Dr. Valerie Wanza, who currently serves as the interim superintendent’s chief of staff, received support from at least 16 public speakers who praised her as a “visionary” and someone who “worked her way up” in the district.

Many who showed up to voice their support were school principals and representatives from employee groups.

After the initial vote, public outcry about Wanza not being selected caused board member Daniel Foganholi to make a motion to add a fourth finalist, who almost certainly would have been Wanza. The motion failed, with only Foganholi and Alston voting for it.

“Dr. Wanza has tremendous amount of support here in Broward County public schools. She’s an amazing person but unfortunately she didn’t get enough votes to move on to the finalist round,” said Alhadeff, who didn’t vote for Wanza as a finalist. 

This story is published as part of a collaboration between City & State Florida and WLRN NewsGerard Albert III covers Broward County. He can be reached at galbert@wlrnnews.org

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