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The Broward County School Board narrowed down the list of 39 candidates applying to permanently replace Robert Runcie as district superintendent Tuesday to four.
Top among the contenders with the nine School Board members is current interim Superintendent Vickie Cartwright, whom the School Board chose for the temporary job in July with a $275,000 annual contract.
When the board tapped Cartwright, it did so under the requirement that she did not seek the permanent role. However, it decided in the fall to let her apply after she received praise from her staff, board members and teachers.
Broward Teachers Union President Anna Fusco sent a letter to board members earlier this month urging them to choose Cartwright.
“With over 26 years of experience teaching, mentoring, and guiding students, Vickie Cartwright has dedicated her life to the education and betterment of our students,” Fusco wrote.
During Tuesday’s specially called meeting to discuss superintendent candidates, Fusco urged board members to end the process of considering others and hire Cartwright because she said she’s already shown she can excel at the job.
“I believe that if she had a permanent position, so much more can be done,” Fusco said.
According to Fusco, Cartwright has demonstrated her leadership abilities since taking the job, especially in Broward’s battle with the DeSantis administration over mask mandates and dealing with the mental health challenges students have faced throughout the pandemic as they’ve returned to the classroom.
That letter followed a similar endorsement sent to the School Board in December from Lisa Maxwell, executive director of the Broward Principals’ and Assistants’ Association.
“While I recognize the Board has an obligation to the public to conduct a national search and I am certain there are some very talented and qualified individuals that would want to serve this district, I hope that you will give weight and consideration to the excellent job our interim Superintendent has performed,” Maxwell wrote in her Dec. 17 letter. “She has helped to begin a much-needed recovery in the aftermath of all the tragedy our community has faced and while we have a very long road ahead, I believe that her strength of heart, courage and conviction will move us into a new era of rebuilding our community.”
Cartwright, 50, also received written endorsements from officials in districts at which she has previously worked, like Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and Orange County in Florida.
Cartwright began leading the nation’s sixth-largest school district on Aug. 2. Her most recent previous position was superintendent of the Oshkosh public school system. Most of her career, however, was spent in Orange County.
She replaced Runcie, who was indicted in April, along with the district’s general counsel, Barbara Myrick, on a charge of lying to a statewide grand jury. He pleaded not guilty, and his case is pending. The School Board approved a $754,900 separation agreement last year, and he stayed on staff in an advisory role until Aug. 10.
The School Board tasked Iowa-based educational leadership search firm Ray and Associates to analyze and recommend national — and one international — candidates to permanently replace Runcie. The firm winnowed the list of nearly 40 applicants to eight people, including Cartwright.
The others were (alphabetically):
▪ Michael Cohen, current superintendent of the York Regional School District in Ontario, one of Canada’s largest districts, with about 130,000 students and 1,500 staff. His current annual salary is $179,000, and he holds a doctorate degree in education from Teachers College at Columbia University in New York. Ray and Associates confirms he has a visa to work in the United States. Cohen has a background in education, including as a teacher and principal.
▪ Rafaela Espinal, assistant superintendent of the New York City Department of Education. She has held the job since 2018. Before that, Espinal was superintendent of Community School District 12 in the South Bronx. Like Cohen, Espinal holds a doctorate from Teachers College at Columbia University and earns an annual salary of $179,000. Her educational background includes being a teacher and principal. Espinal also applied unsuccessfully to replace Alberto Carvalho as superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
▪ Michael Gaal, former president of sales at Lakewood, New Jersey, educational technology company Beable Education, from which he resigned Jan. 1. He has held previous leadership positions in school districts in Detroit, Michigan, Oakland, California, and Washington, D.C. His current annual salary is $300,000. He is a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy and retired from the Air Force as a colonel after 25 years.
▪ James Daniel Good, associate superintendent of the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio, a nonprofit agency that provides coaching and mentoring services to more than 30 school districts in the state. He was superintendent of Columbus City Schools from 2013 to 2018. He lists his annual salary as varying between $78,000 and $265,000. He holds a doctorate degree from Ohio State University.
▪ Peter Licata, regional superintendent of the Palm Beach County School District since 2019. He has held leadership roles in the district since becoming a school principal in 2002. His current annual salary is $165,000. He holds a doctorate degree in global leadership from Lynn University.
▪ Keith Oswald, chief of equity and wellness, at Palm Beach County School District. He has a master’s degree from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. He was a principal in the school system from 1993 to 2005, when he left to take a job with the New York City Board of Education. He returned to Palm Beach schools in 2007. His annual salary is $192,000.
▪ Quintin Shepherd, superintendent of the Victoria Independent School District in Victoria, Texas, where his annual salary is $325,000. He holds a doctorate from Illinois State University. Shepherd has been superintendent at several school districts in Illinois from 2006 until he took the job in Texas in 2018.
The board Tuesday afternoon chose Cartwright, Licata, Oswald and Gaal to move on to the next step in the process.
What’s expected to happen next, according to Ray and Associates, is the four will come before the board next Wednesday, Feb. 2, to be interviewed. By the end of the day, the board hopes to eliminate two of the candidates.
The following Tuesday, Feb. 8, board members will interview the remaining two candidates one-on-one. That evening, at a school district property yet to be announced, the public will have an opportunity to ask the candidates questions in a meet-and-greet setting.
The next day, the board will vote on the new permanent superintendent.
Broward’s search for a new superintendent continues a day after the Miami-Dade School Board voted 6-3 to appoint Jose Dotres to replace Carvalho as superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Carvalho is leaving the nation’s fourth-largest school district to lead Los Angeles Unified School District next month.