Broward superintendent negotiates $365K separation agreement with school board

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Broward County Public Schools welcomed Vickie L. Cartwright as superintendent on Feb. 24, 2022, and after months of uncertainty, her attorneys negotiated a separation agreement with the school board on Thursday.

The negotiations lasted about four hours and the agreement was that the superintendent’s payout would stand at a little over $365,645. A clause in the agreement would prevent Cartwright from saying anything negative about the school board, and her attorney wants to change that.

“She has substantial damages here to her reputation, based upon what’s been said to her at the various public meetings. She has had tremendous emotional distress over what’s happened to her losing this job,” said Attorney Rod Hannah, who is representing Cartwright.

The road to the separation agreement took months.

First, the school board voted 5-4 on Nov. 14, 2022, to terminate Cartwright. Daniel Foganholi, Manuel Serrano, Torey Alston, Kevin Tynan, and Ryan Reiter voted in favor of the termination. Lori Alhadeff, Debra Hixon, Sarah Leonardi, and Nora Rupert voted against it.

In December, with three new members, Allen Zeman, Jeff Holness, and Brenda Fam, the school board rescinded Cartwright’s termination. And in January, when DeSantis’s appointee Foganholi rejoined the school board, they agreed to a separation agreement.

The push to terminate Cartwright stems from Gov. Ron DeSantis’s decision to suspend four Broward school board members from office in August 2022 — accusing them of “incompetence” and “neglect of duty.” DeSantis’s new appointees later pushed to replace Cartwright.

DeSantis attached a 2021 grand jury report to his executive order after the Florida Supreme Court mandated an investigation in 2019 and The Florida Department of Law Enforcement assisted for about 22 months. Among the grand jury’s conclusions was that “astonishing mismanagement” was putting “students at risk.”

The grand jury’s findings were related to the district’s SMART Safety projects and inaccurate data reporting to law enforcement. The report also criticized the school board for giving Cartwright’s predecessor, Robert Runcie, a 30% raise. The FDLE later arrested Runcie for lying under oath to the grand jury.

After the negotiations were over Thursday afternoon in Fort Lauderdale, there was a news conference and Alhadeff said she was satisfied with Cartwright’s separation agreement.

“It allows Dr. Cartwright to leave Broward County Public Schools with her head up and to be able to move forward to potentially seek another job somewhere else as superintendent,” Alhadeff said.

In a somber tone, Cartwright said, “My heart and soul have been here with Broward County Public Schools.”

Cartwright will remain on staff for the next 60 days. The school board plans to finalize the agreement during a meeting on Tuesday.

Details of the superintendent’s payout

  • Unused vacation/ sick time: $57,292.90
  • 20 weeks of severance pay: $195,114.39
  • Remote consulting (60 days): $98,239.03
  • Attorney’s fees: $15,000

TOTAL: $365,646.32

Watch a video of Cartwright’s attorney presenting a proposal

Related story: Broward schools leadership change will be costly for taxpayers

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. 

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.