Broward picks Vickie Cartwright as schools superintendent

The interim education chief since July says she will quickly build her senior staff after being picked as the full-time superintendent by the school board in Broward County on Wednesday.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Vickie Cartwright has been selected as Broward County Public Schools’ full-time superintendent.

The school board voted 7-2 on Wednesday afternoon to elevate the interim superintendent who has been leading the nation’s sixth-largest district since the summer. Board Member Ann Murray then changed her vote to make it officially 8-1, with Lori Alhadeff the lone dissenting vote.

Cartwright, 51, was selected over finalist Michael Gaal, a retired Air Force colonel who has also worked in educational leadership.

She replaces Robert Runcie, who stepped down last spring after being charged with perjury.

“I am humbled. I am honored,” Cartwright said after the vote, adding the first thing she plans to do is hire senior leadership for her staff, which she wasn’t able to do as the interim schools chief.

“One of my initial interests at this point is really going out and recruiting the best-qualified candidates for those positions.”

Broward School Board Chair Laurie Rich Levinson called the decision “monumental for this district. We have our first female superintendent.”

Murray called it “the closest horse race I’ve ever seen in selecting a superintendent.”

A replay of the meeting can be seen below:

Cartwright will still need to work out a contract with the school board.

Cartwright taught music and was an administrator in Orange County, in the Orlando area, for 17 years before serving as superintendent of a small Wisconsin district from 2018 until mid-2021. Broward’s district serves nearly 270,000 students.

The interim superintendent was initially not supposed to be eligible for the full-time role, but Cartwright gained the support of board members and Broward Teachers Union President Anna Fusco.

“In the six months that she has served as interim superintendent, she has proven to be an intelligent and excellent leader with an ability to listen to and work with all constituencies,” Fusco said in a statement after Cartwright was selected. “She quickly gained a keen understanding of the district’s challenges and opportunities. I look forward to continuing the positive and fruitful relationship we have created and to Dr. Cartwright’s long tenure as the leader of Broward County Public Schools.”

The finalists each gave a brief opening statement Wednesday morning before taking questions from school board members. A public comment session was then followed by board members’ discussion and their vote.

“My background speaks for itself. My experience in running very large, urban districts also speaks for itself,” said Cartwright, who before taking the interim job in July was superintendent in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. “I have purposely ensured that my background, my experiences, and where I have spent my time in education, has prepared me for this role.”

Beyond serving as a flight instructor, Gaal has been deputy chancellor of D.C. Public Schools, chief of staff for the Oakland Unified School District and in leadership positions for the Education Achievement Authority of Michigan.

But some school board members were concerned that he was never a K12 teacher.

“I’ve made my case to you all that leading this size of a system requires vision and accountability, and that my breadth and depth are best suited for that,” Gaal said to the board Wednesday.

Alhadeff explained her decision to vote for Gaal, saying: “He was the stronger leader in totality, as far as being able to question the status quo, hold people accountable.”

Cartwright earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in music education from the University of Florida and a Master’s in music education from the University of Southern Mississippi, where she obtained an Educational Specialist degree and Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Administration and Supervision.

Cartwright, who started her career as a music teacher, was elevated from interim status in a vote by the county's public school board Wednesday.

She spoke last week of how music and church helped her spark a career in education after becoming homeless as a child.

“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 has been married to Carl Cartwright for 30 years and has a son, Dylan, who recently graduated from college, according to her school district bio.

Cartwright has already been in the hot seat, dealing with the fight with Gov. Ron DeSantis over masks in the classroom. She was asked Wednesday after her selection about current laws making their way in Tallahassee that would schools, like the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

“To say that we are now going to create an environment where our students continue to feel excluded instead of included, it’s dangerous,” she said. “That’s not the America I know.”

Last week, the school board narrowed its list of candidates to two finalists.

All nine board members voted to advance Cartwright in that meeting. Seven of the nine board members voted to advance Gaal.

Cartwright and Gaal also fielded questions from parents Tuesday night at Plantation High School.

“Both of these candidates bring great strengths,” Board Member Donna Korn said just before Wednesday’s vote. “They bring different types of leadership to the table.”

For more information on the superintendent search, go to To see the public comments submitted to the board, click here.

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.