Broward County schools extends Superintendent search deadline

broward public schools video screencap
Report: Search was reopened in hopes of drawing a candidate who's ruled out coming to the district.

The former Broward County Schools Superintendent Vickie Cartwright is proving a hard act to replace.

According to a Thursday news release, the Broward County School Board has extended the April 27 deadline to Tuesday for applications to lead the nation’s sixth-largest school district. The Sun-Sentinel reports that the search was reopened in response to the news that the Superintendent of the fifth-largest school district in the country is interested in the job.

But the Superintendent of Clark County schools in Nevada told the newspaper he’s staying put.

Cartwright and the Broward County School Board agreed to sever ties in January just short of her anniversary of serving as the district’s permanent leader. And the School Board last week appeared underwhelmed by the qualifications of 26 candidates who threw their hats in the ring for the job that paid Cartwright $350,000 a year.

At a meeting reviewing the applicants on May 2, the search consultant reported that out of the pool of candidates, 11 did not meet the minimum qualifications.

He thought just two, maybe three people could do the job.

Ralph Ferrie, with McPherson & Jacobson, the search firm the district hired, blamed the dearth of candidates on Florida’s open records law that makes candidates’ names public and the political climate.

“We know what the pool looks like,” said Torey Alston, a Board member who Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed to the School Board. “It’s unfortunate.”

Alston also called the results of the search “weak.”

This week, School Board Chair Lori Alhadeff said that besides the six leading candidates, the search firm has forwarded, the district is also considering Jesus Jara, Superintendent of the 300,000-student school district of Clark County, which includes Las Vegas. If he’s still a candidate, he would be the only one under consideration currently leading a school district of comparable size to Broward County.

The four candidates the search firm rated as being top tier are:

Peter Licata, regional Palm Beach County schools superintendent.
Jason Nault, associate Superintendent for Waukegan, Illinois schools.
Luis Solano, deputy Detroit schools superintendent.
Valerie Wanza, acting Broward County schools chief of staff.

Two others were also forwarded for contention but didn’t come among those the search firm rated in the top tier. Keith Oswald, chief of equity and wellness for the Palm Beach County schools, and Wanda Paul, chief operating officer of the Houston Independent School District, were among the names forwarded for consideration for Broward schools’ top job. Still, the search firm did not rate them as highly as the four others.

Oswald has since withdrawn his name from consideration, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

Broward County schools have been wracked with turmoil as the aftershocks of the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland — the worst school shooting in state history — have reverberated. Cartwright came in as the interim leader of Broward schools due to the arrest and firing of the previous Superintendent in the Spring of 2021, Robert Runcie.

He was accused of lying to a grand jury looking at the circumstances leading up to the shooting.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


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