Board fires schools chief after Parkland massacre report


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The superintendent of Florida’s second largest school district was fired after a late-night motion brought up by a board member appointed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis following a grand jury report into the Parkland school massacre.

The board voted 5-4 to fireside Broward Schools Superintendent Vickie Cartwright, who has held the position because the summer of 2021, after Broward school board member Daniel Foganholi brought up the surprise motion Monday night.

The district has been embroiled in controversy since a grand jury investigation into the Parkland shooting also uncovered unrelated allegations of mismanagement. A former official was charged with contract-rigging, a former superintendent with perjury and 4 school board members were eventually removed.

Individually, audits reported in October of two contracts with long run vendors — one for caps and gowns and the opposite for training and education management — found that folks and the district were overcharged some $1.4 million.

Cartwright has often been criticized for failing to repair a district culture that allowed waste and corruption, and the board unanimously reprimanded her in October and gave her 90 days to report on her progress.

All five board members voting against Cartwright in Florida’s most Democratic-leaning county were appointed by DeSantis, a Republican who has said he desires to prioritize accountability within the county. 4 of those appointees shall be gone next week after they shall be replaced by board members who won elections last week.

Cartwright didn’t comment in regards to the firing.

The dissenting school board members included Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter was killed within the shooting and Debra Hixon, whose husband was also fatally shot within the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

“Dr. Vickie Cartwright is a superb individual, but leading the nation’s sixth-largest school district requires a hands-on leader and someone that may make real change,” Torey Alston, who was elected last week, said in an announcement. “Based on recent systemic issues, the Board decided to go in a distinct direction.”

Cartwright replaced Robert Runcie, who resigned in 2021 after perjury charges were brought against him.

“There are some great individuals who work for this organization, but toxic behavior continues to occur,” Foganholi said in making the motion. “That is about accountability.”

Some school board members said the motion was unfair since they’d just asked Cartwright on Oct. 25 to deal with a protracted list of concerns.

“This motion is impulsive and inappropriate at this moment, and I cannot support this,” Leonardi said.

The meeting was publicly advertised, but there was nothing on the agenda suggesting that Cartwright can be fired, the South Florida SunSentinel reported. The newspaper said one public speaker, who recurrently attends school board meetings, addressed the problem, and supported the superintendent’s firing.

The board called a special meeting on Tuesday to deal with hiring an interim alternative.

Foganholi did not have enough votes when he first brought up the motion, with two DeSantis appointees speaking out against the move. They later agreed to it, with Kevin Tynan being the deciding vote after asking for a minute to give it some thought.

Cartwright was named interim superintendent in last August and was hired permanently in February. Her contract, which matches through late 2024, requires her to be given 60 days notice. She can be entitled to about $134,600 in severance pay.

The motion to fireside her got here at the tip of the board’s discussion of two audits criticizing the district’s practices.

Since DeSantis removed and replaced 4 board members in August, Cartwright has been often accused of failing to repair a problematic culture within the district. Foganholi, who brought up the motion, had been appointed to the board earlier by DeSantis.

Former Stoneman Douglas student Nikolas Cruz, 24, was sentenced to life in prison earlier this month after pleading guilty to the massacre in 2021.

Broward’s school district is the nation’s sixth-largest, with greater than 270,000 students at 333 campuses and an annual budget of $4 billion.

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