Vickie Cartwright, a longtime Orange County administrator and recent superintendent in Wisconsin, was selected Thursday as the interim superintendent for Broward schools.
A divided School Board chose Cartwright 5-4 over a second candidate interviewed, Robert Schiller, an administrator who has led numerous school districts over the past 40 years, often for a short duration.
“I’m feeling very grateful. I’m so humbled for the opportunity to work alongside some wonderful individuals,” Cartwright said after the meeting. “This is just an exciting time for me. Coming to Florida is important to me.”
Before becoming superintendent in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, in 2018, Cartwright, 50, worked 17 years with the Orange County school district, rising to an associate superintendent.
She will replace Robert Runcie, who resigned after being arrested on a perjury charge. His last day will be Aug. 10. Cartwright is expected to meet Monday with Chairwoman Rosalind Osgood to negotiate a contract. Cartwright will not be allowed to apply for the permanent job, under rules set by the School Board.
“We’ve been through a lot. We need a healer,” board member Nora Rupert said. “There was clearly one candidate who has the heart to lead this district. The heart is what’s been lost lately.”
Board member Debra Hixon added: “She talked a lot about diversity, equity. I love that she talked about being proactive rather than reactive and talked a lot about transparency.”
Board members Sarah Leonardi and Lori Alhadeff, who often vote in a block with Rupert and Hixon, also supported Cartwright, and they were joined by Patti Good, whose votes have been less predictable recently.
Good said Cartwright demonstrated a strong knowledge of the district and also a leadership style that focuses on collaboration.
“We are going through so many challenges, we need an individual who has that kind of style,” Good said.
The challenges include steep declines in student achievement and enrollment over the past year, an $800 million bond referendum that has failed to deliver, the recent arrests of Runcie and several other administrators and a pending grand jury report.
Cartwright’s appointment could signal a culture shift in the district, at least temporarily. Four of Runcie’s strongest supporters — Osgood, Laurie Rich Levinson, Donna Korn and Ann Murray — voted against her. Those same four previously backed Safety Chief Brian Katz, a candidate supported by Runcie’s top administrators, for the interim job.
The four said Cartwright wasn’t experienced enough, having only been a superintendent for a school district with fewer than 10,000 students.
Some also worried Cartwright would seek too many changes and that Schiller made it clear multiple times that he wasn’t interested in being a permanent superintendent. Cartwright said she plans to seek a permanent superintendent’s job in Florida after her tenure in Broward ends.
“They’re not here to be a change agent,” Levinson said. “They’re here to hold down the fort and hold the educational trajectory we’re on.”
Osgood also said Cartwright seemed better suited for the permanent job.
“I thought she was so dynamic, I think we were doing a major disservice by limiting her to an interim superintendent job,” Osgood said after the meeting.
Some board members said they were concerned about Cartwright’s turbulent history in Wisconsin. She faced public criticism by principals and some parents about how she handled COVID-19-related reopening issues. Cartwright acknowledged that she resigned in June after having lost support from her School Board, which changed during a recent election.
“Look beyond what Google says. It doesn’t define who I am,” Cartwright said. “If you get beyond the first page, there’s a lot there.”
A University of Florida graduate, she is married to Carl Cartwright, superintendent of the Berlin Area School District in Wisconsin. She said she plans to move to Broward, and he’ll be looking for a job to relocate here. The two have an adult son who lives in the Orlando area.
Former Broward Superintendent James Notter applied for the interim job and was considered by many to be the favorite. But he unexpectedly dropped out last weekend. Notter, who lives in West Palm Beach, said district officials told him about a statute that requires superintendents to live in the county they serve.
“Residency, which I was notified of late last week, was one of several items over the past 30 days that made the picture going forward untenable,” Notter said Monday by text message. He declined to elaborate, calling them “personal items.”