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After months of uncertainty, Broward school board and superintendent agree to mutual separation

Superintendent Vickie Cartwright stands with Board Chairwoman Lori Alhadeff after getting agreeing to a mutual termination on Jan. 24.
Gerard Albert III
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Superintendent Vickie Cartwright stands with Board Chairwoman Lori Alhadeff after getting agreeing to a mutual termination on Jan. 24.

The board and Superintendent Vickie Cartwright agreed to a mutual separation agreement, suggested by board member Debbi Hixon, on Tuesday. But a vote is still pending.

The nation's sixth largest school district is set for a change in leadership after the Broward County school board voted Tuesday to get rid of their superintendent — marking the end of a prolonged uncertainty about the position.

Vickie Cartwright's removal was months in the making, following the 2022 release of a grand jury report sparked by the 2018 Parkland school shooting. The report prompted Gov. Ron DeSantis to remove four school board members from office last year and appoint four others, who pushed for her firing.

The latest termination proposal, filed by board member Allen Zeman ahead of Tuesday's meeting, would have removed Cartwright but allowed her to stay in her position until July 1. That's almost 100 days longer than the 60-day notice required in her contract.

Debbi Hixon made an amendment to that motion — allowing for a mutual termination agreement, which Cartwright agreed to.

The board will now search for a temporary replacement while negotiating the terms of Cartwright's departure. She will likely be paid for 60 days, per her contract. Other details of her termination will be presented at a Feb. 15 meeting.

Cartwright makes her case

Cartwright became interim Superintendent in August 2021 and got the permanent gig in Feb. 2022.

She started Tuesday's meeting with a report touting her accomplishments and trying to make her case for keeping her job. They included negotiating raises for teachers and improved graduation rates.

Cartwright also listed seven areas that the board tasked her to focus on including board relationships, community engagement and following up on a 2022 grand jury report by selecting an auditing firm to review it. She included steps she has taken to address those issues.

"Student achievement is increasing. Student safety remains at the forefront," Cartwright said at the end of her presentation that lasted over an hour. "There was a lot of noise. But the focus of my leadership ... remained students first as the priority."

Sixteen speakers signed up to speak during public comment. The first one pleaded with the board to fire Cartwright.

"The principals and assistant principals in this county do not have the confidence in this superintendent," said Lisa Maxwell. "We've raised these issues with the superintendent over the last two years consistently. We have scheduled a regular meeting with her. Half of them have been canceled."

Termination talk started with DeSantis appointee

In an emotional October meeting, the board gave Cartwright 90 days to address concerns on district culture, community engagement and accountability.

In a November meeting 19 days later, board member Daniel Foganholi — a DeSantis appointee — made a surprise motion to fire Cartwright. He had the votes thanks to four other board members who were also appointed by DeSantis.

Foganholi and three other appointees were soon replaced by four elected board members who then voted to rescind Cartwright's firing, mostly because of how it happened.

Gov. DeSantis appointed Foganholi back to the board again on Dec. 22 after Rod Velez — the elected member — failed to be sworn in because of questions about his eligibility to hold public office.

Allen Zeman, who voted in favor of rescinding the firing during a December school board meeting, said the board should have honored the initial deal with Cartwright, made in October.

Those 90 days would have ended on Jan. 24, the date of Tuesday's meeting.
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Gerard Albert III