BCPS welcomes new interim superintendent

Interim+Superintendent+Vickie+Cartwright+leans+forward+to+listen+to+a+reporter%E2%80%99s+question+during+the+%23ReadyForYouReEngagement+campaign+on+Saturday%2C+Sept.+24.+

Theron Piccininni

Interim Superintendent Vickie Cartwright leans forward to listen to a reporter’s question during the #ReadyForYouReEngagement campaign on Saturday, Sept. 24.

Ivy Lam, Editor-in-Chief

Presiding over 328 schools and approximately 270,000 students is no feat. Anyone faced with this challenge is bound to not hold up; however, the job needs the right person to take initiative. Despite extenuating circumstances amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the search for a permanent superintendent, Dr. Vickie Cartwright was awarded the role.

Following a 5-4 vote by the school board on July 22, the district selected Cartwright to serve as interim superintendent of Broward County Public Schools. She replaced Robert Runcie, who announced his resignation in late April after being arrested on a charge of perjury.

Cartwright has worked in the education field for 26 years. Her administrative and teaching experience includes serving as an assistant principal, principal, elementary school music teacher and high school band director.

Prior to moving to BCPS, Cartwright served as the Superintendent of Schools for Oshkosh Area School District in Wisconsin. Her jurisdiction over Oshkosh, a county much smaller than Broward, raised concerns for some school board members.

Previous to Oshkosh, Cartwright worked in Orange County Public Schools in Orlando, Florida for 27 years. According to the superintendent’s biography on the BCPS website, her leadership experience includes overseeing the Exceptional Students Education Department as assistant superintendent there.

“I really enjoy being back in Florida, being back in the environment I’m accustomed to being around and working to make sure that our students are successful,” Cartwright said.

Cartwright’s first day on the job was Aug. 2. She is expected to serve as interim superintendent for 6-12 months as the district searches for a permanent superintendent.

“I’ve really enjoyed going to our schools, talking with students, and interacting with all of our educators,” Cartwright said. “I’ve been going to our Friday night football games in order to meet students, parents and community members.”

Cartwright’s biggest difficulties include learning all about BCPS, making sure she is available and getting out into the community. Being able to attend as many events as possible is extremely challenging for her.

“I have a very good secretary who works with my calendar and ensures that I’m flexible, so I can be there representing our school district and sharing with others the wonderful work that’s going on here,” Cartwright said.

Cartwright was initially drawn to the education industry because of her own teachers. She considers students her first priority, establishing that every decision she makes is in their best interest.

“I had a very turbulent childhood. I was homeless in middle school, so I bounced around from school to school,” Cartwright said. “My band directors were the ones who made sure I always had a home wherever I landed. That really changed the course of my life and how I interact with others.”

To keep herself current on important matters, Cartwright reads a variety of news sources and books. She also attends different professional development sessions to stay well-informed on news regarding the local, state, national and international level.

“[To maintain a work-life balance], I try my best to settle down and self-reflect every night,” Cartwright said. “I truly enjoy anything musical. I play bassoon and sing.”

Moreover, Cartwright has the support of the Broward Teachers Union, an organization of educational professionals who defend and support public education, and who advocate for better working conditions.

“Under the circumstances, [Cartwright has been] handling everything with professionalism, respect, and grace,” BTU President Anna Fusco said. “She’s getting bombarded by everybody, and she’s handled it with dignity.”

As the interim superintendent, Cartwright must fulfill countless responsibilities across a district of over 270,000 students. She often encounters innumerable concerns from members of the community, such as parents, students and employees.

“She’s dealing with all types of angles that show that our district has been broken for a very long time, even before the MSD tragedy,” Fusco said. “[Cartwright] has a lot on her plate, and she’s really trying to do her best to figure out all of the pieces and the people that can help get the work done.”

Cartwright often presents in front of the school board to address questions and speaks at press conferences on behalf of important matters, such as Alyssa’s Alert. As the interim superintendent, she is required to listen to problems and concerns and attempt to solve them by making the appropriate decisions.

“Dr. Cartwright has been navigating through a lot of district issues,” BCPS school board member Lori Alhadeff said. “I hope she works on preventing delays in our SMART Bond projects and getting everyone on staff to use E-Builder to its fullest extent.”

Cartwright continues to be proactive, actively participating in the BCPS community to commemorate outstanding teachers and visit students across the district. She is set to continue serving the role of interim superintendent for the remainder of the year until a permanent superintendent is chosen. Some school board members have shown support for appointing Cartwright as the permanent superintendent.

This story was originally published in the October 2021 Eagle Eye print edition.