School Board of Broward County fires Superintendent Vickie Cartwright days before new members sworn in


Tribune News Service

Meeting Mayhem. Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Vickie Cartwright speaks during a meeting at the Kathleen C. Wright Administration Center on Monday, Nov. 14, 2022, in Fort Lauderdale. Photo courtesy of Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service.

Brynn Schwartz and Cypress Northcraft

The School Board of Broward County fired Superintendent Vickie Cartwright in a 5-4 vote on Nov. 14. The decision came three weeks after Cartwright was given 90 days to fix a list of 15 alleged failures during an 11-hour “special meeting” on Oct. 25.

“There are some great people who work for this organization, but toxic behavior continues to happen,” school board member Daniel Foganholi said when he made the official motion to fire Cartwright. “This is about accountability.”

The five board members that voted to fire Cartwright were those appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis on Aug. 26: Torey Alston, Ryan Reiter, Manuel Serrano and Kevin Tynan, as well as Foganholi who was appointed on April 29 to fill the seat of former school board member Rosalind Osgood. The four elected members: Lori Alhadeff, Debbie Hixon, Sarah Leonardi and Nora Rupert voted to keep Cartwright as superintendent.

“I can kind [of] see both sides. Since it was a grand jury report, there has, to me, some merit to it, and I don’t think it was as much of a surprise as she says it is, as they have been recommending to suspend her since September,” junior Cianna Furton said. “But, I also don’t think it’s right that four of the five that voted to fire her [left with] in a week. Instability seems constant now, and it’s not beneficial.”

Alston, Reiter, Serrano and Tynan were chosen to replace Board Chair Laurie Rich Levinson, Board Vice Chair Patricia Good and board members Donna Korn and Ann Murray, as a result of the release of a 2021 grand jury report. The report alleged mismanagements within BCPS that resulted in the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and failures with the SMART bond project.

An additional vote was held on Nov. 15, after school Hixon made a motion to rescind Cartwright’s firing. The board upheld their decision with the same 5-4 split as the original vote.

All appointed members, apart from Alston, were replaced following the midterm elections in November.

“I think they should have waited for the new board members to vote; people who are leaving in a week don’t have near as much vested interest in a situation as people who will be affected long term,” Furton said.

Former superintendent Robert Runcie announced his resignation in April 2021 following three years of intense criticism surrounding the failures of BCPS that led to the Feb. 14, 2018 shooting at MSD that killed 17 students and staff members. In July 2021, the school board selected Cartwright to replace Runcie as BCPS interim superintendent with the stipulation that she could not apply for the permanent superintendent position. The school board later voted to allow her to apply, and she became the official superintendent on Feb. 9, 2022.

Cartwright faced her first major controversy in June; she was accused of racism by unfairly demoting Black BCPS administrators. Cartwright defended herself, arguing that she is “not a racist” and that her career “has been focused on ensuring equity and diversity.”

However, the largest controversy was the list of her 15 alleged failures.

“While there have been numerous achievements with our amazing students, instructional/non-instructional employees and key stakeholders, there have been a series of major issues that continue to plague the district and overall culture,” the document that listed Cartwright’s failures said. “Leadership starts and ends with the superintendent of schools.”

Despite her firing, her contract allows her to remain superintendent until January 2023; the contract, which went into effect with her formal hiring in February 2022, requires her to be given 60 days of notice before termination and entitles her to $134,600 in severance pay.
By the end of her term, it is possible the new board members will choose to bring Cartwright back as superintendent. The school board will hold a meeting on Dec. 15 to discuss her firing and possibly rescind it.

This story was originally published in the December 2022 Eagle Eye print edition.