Broward school board picks 2 superintendent finalists

Choice between interim chief Cartwright and ex-Air Force pilot Gaal set for next week

The school board is expected to pick between retired U.S. Air Force pilot Michael Gaal and the district's interim superintendent Vickie Cartwright next week.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Broward County’s school board has identified two finalists for the district’s superintendent position after interviewing three semifinalists Wednesday.

Interim Superintendent Vickie Cartwright and Michael Gaal, a retired U.S. Air Force pilot with experience as a school district administrator, were chosen to advance into the final part of the process next week.

Quintin Shepherd, superintendent at the Victoria Independent School District in Texas, was eliminated from contention after each board member voted for their top two candidates.

Cartwright — who was previously superintendent in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and also was an associate superintendent in the Orlando area — received votes from all nine board members to be a finalist.

Gaal received seven votes and Shepherd two.

Cartwright also got support from Broward Teachers Union President Anna Fusco, who addressed the board as part of the public comment portion of the meeting.

That came after each of the semifinalists took the same set of questions from the board members in person for about 45 minutes. Topics included school safety, facility improvements, diversity and other challenges the public school district faces.

The eventual finalists showed during the interviews that they are very different candidates.

“The beginning of my career is one that is truly based on relationships and the value of understanding the importance in ensuring that we put students first,” Cartwright told the board.

“During my 7th-grade year, unfortunately, my family did become homeless,” she said, then speaking about how her love of music and church family helped her.

Cartwright later became a music teacher before progressing in her education career.

Gaal said that while he’s “not a K12 certified teacher,” he had extensive experience as an Air Force instructor pilot.

He also worked as an administrator in Washington, D.C., public schools and the Oakland Unified School District.

“It really boils down to three takeaways here in Broward County,” Gaal said “I think it’s educate, operate and communicate.”

Board Chair Laurie Rich Levinson, who voted for Cartwright and Gaal, said they both bring a wealth of experience in different sectors. She’ll be looking for whichever can improve academics in the county.

“With COVID, we all know what has been the effect on our students and how important it is that we focus on academics and education for our students,” she said.

On Tuesday at 7 p.m., members of the public will have a chance to meet the finalists at Plantation High School’s auditorium. On Feb. 9, the school board is scheduled to vote on its choice for the next superintendent.

The school board had narrowed the field to three candidates Tuesday. They had to hold a do-over meeting after initially selecting superintendent semifinalists on Jan. 25 because of concerns about Sunshine Laws and transparency.

Since then, one candidate dropped out and another was not selected as a semifinalist on the second vote.

See more information about the semifinalists and their applications below:

About the Authors:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba.