On Monday evening, five Broward County School Board members appointed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis successfully voted to fire Superintendent Vickie L. Cartwright.
Before the vote, members of the board were discussing an audit with their distributor, Herff Jones, Chuck Puleri & Associates, which has been accused of charging families more than necessary for caps and gowns. According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the company overcharged families by more than $330,000 in just one year.
It was after this discussion that the Board’s Chair Torey Alston suggested action be taken regarding Cartwright’s future with the district. Alston and board members Daniel Foganholi, Ryan Reiter, Kevin Tynan and Manuel Serrano voted in favor of her termination. Lori Alhadeff, Debra Hixon, Sarah Leonardi and Nora Rupert, the board’s four elected members, voted in support of her.
In an interview with CBS News, Alhadeff said she was blindsided by the vote.
“I’m actually very flabbergasted that this just happened,” she said. “Shocking. I had no idea. It just kind of came out of nowhere. We were talking about the 90 days and giving Dr. Cartwright to go through on her checklist up to the 90 days and then the vote just happened.”
According to a statement issued by Alston after the vote, Cartwright isn’t the right fit for the district.
“Dr. Vickie Cartwright is a wonderful individual, but leading the nation’s sixth-largest school district required a hands-on leader and someone that will make real change,” the statement reads. “Based on recent systemic issues, the Board decided to go in a different direction. The Board thanks Dr. Cartwright for her service to Broward County. It’s time for reform and healing, and we will do that with a seasoned educator who will lead our District, make tough decisions and engage with all stakeholders.”
The board has seen several structural changes over the course of the school year. Most notably, DeSantis removed members Ann Murray, Donna Korn, Laurie Rich Levinson and Patricia Good in August after a state grand jury report was released that accused them of “deceit, malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty, and incompetence” for their handling of the 2018 Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
In October, the board met to discuss Cartwright’s fate with the district. On the meeting’s agenda, there was an item that listed 15 criticisms of Cartwright that questioned her judgment and decision-making.
But the board agreed not to fire her at that time. Instead, she was given 90 days to create a checklist of issues that she would address and present to the board. She never got that 90 days.
“You know the district right now, we’re in such turmoil,” said Alhadeff in her interview with CBS News. “And we’re in the middle of the school year and we have new school board members coming on next week and I just didn’t feel like this was the timing. We said that we were going to give her a chance and we should’ve given her the 90 days.”
The new board members Alhadeff referred to are scheduled to replace four of the five DeSantis-appointed members next week.
According to CBS News, the board may have an opportunity to vote to rescind her termination to have her rehired.