FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Broward County School Board voted five to four on Monday night to fire Superintendent Vickie L. Cartwright.
Gov. Ron DeSantis’s five appointees swiftly pushed her out during the public meeting.
The school board members were initially discussing an audit regarding their distributor for Herff Jones, Chuck Puleri & Associates, which is accused of overcharging families for graduation cap and gowns.
According to a South Florida Sun-Sentinel report, the company overcharged families $331,181 in just one year.
Then Torey Alston, the chair, at some point brought up the idea to discuss the superintendent’s fate with the district.
Alston and board members Daniel Foganholi, Ryan Reiter, Kevin Tynan, and Manuel Serrano voted in favor of firing the superintendent.
The four elected members — Lori Alhadeff, Debra Hixon, Sarah Leonardi, and Nora Rupert — voted in support of Cartwright.
Cartwright told Local 10 News’ Hatzel Vela, “I was shocked and surprised” after her firing.
Cartwright had been on the job for less than nine months and inherited a laundry list of problems from the previous superintendent.
She was lauded by the MSD commission for her work on correcting the mistakes of the past.
But it was Monday night late into the evening that board member Daniel Foghanholi made the motion to terminate the superintendent.
“Though it’s a weird thing because it’s my last day with the time, you know, Martin Luther King there is always a right time to do the right thing,” said Foghanholi.
In a school board that often talks about stability, Superintendent supporter and board member Sarah Leonardi says the firing creates instability.
“In my heart, I feel like it’s unfair to Dr. Cartwright,” said Leonardi.
On Oct 26., the DeSantis appointees tried to fire Cartwright but instead chose to give her 90 days to address their concerns.
Local 10 News’ Hatzel Vela asked Cartwright if she thought this was politically motivated.
“At this point in time i’m not prepared to say what is driving this,” she said.
Alhadeff said she was surprised the vote came up.
“I had no idea. It just kind of came out of nowhere,” she said. “We were talking about the 90 days and giving Dr. Cartwright time to go through her checklist up to the 90 days, and the vote just happened.”
“I think what you saw was the board empowering the new board that’s coming. I think there is a sense from many parents and teachers, administrators for something different,” Alston said. “I think you also heard a sense that community wants to see change swiftly from top down, and I think you heard that desire for real change.”
In a statement, Alston discussed what will happen moving forward.
“I will work with Dr. Cartwright and our interim general counsel to negotiate a smooth separation and transition and look forward to welcoming and working with a new Interim Superintendent as we look for a transformational leader,” the statement read.
On Tuesday morning, the school board reconvened to discuss how they will select an interim superintendent and the timeline, along with other matters on the change.
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They also heard from members of the public.
“The decision should be in the new board’s hands, not the school board that is sitting here now,” one man said.
on Tuesday, Alston nominated former Deputy Superintendent Dr. Earlean Smiley to serve as interim superintendent.
The new board-elected members will be sworn in next Tuesday amid the launch of a national search for a new superintendent.
The newly elected four school board members Rod Velez, Jeff Holness, Brenda Fam, and Allen Zeman will replace Foganholi, Reiter, Tynan, and Serrano.
In August, DeSantis suspended Ann Murray, Donna Korn, Laurie Rich Levinson, and Patricia Good after the release of a state grand jury report accusing them of “deceit, malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty, and incompetence.”
The grand jury also recommended the removal of Florida Sen. Rosalind Osgood, but the former chair of the school board had already left and was serving in the state legislature.
District 1: Velez was elected during the midterms and will be replacing Reiter, DeSantis’s appointee. Reiter replaced Murray after her suspension.
District 2: Alston, DeSantis’s appointee, replaced Good after her suspension.
District 5: Holness was elected during the midterms and will be replacing Foganholi, DeSantis’s appointee. Foganholi replaced Osgood after her resignation.
District 6: Fam was elected during the midterms and will be replacing Serrano, DeSantis’s appointee. Serrano had replaced Levinson after her suspension.
Seat 8: Zeman was elected during the midterms and will be replacing Tynan, DeSantis’s appointee. Tynan replaced Korn after her suspension.
Leonardi represents District 3. Alhadeff represents District 4. Hixon represents Seat 9. Rupert represents District 7.