Monday marked 1st day of school for Broward district’s students — and its top boss

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Broward County Public Schools students marked their first day of school Monday, which also marked Peter Licata’s very first first day of school as the district’s superintendent.

Local 10 News tagged along as the top boss toured schools throughout the county.

At Monarch High School in Coconut Creek, there were no butterflies in sophomore Juliana Rocha’s stomach.

“Are you nervous?” Local 10 News reporter Saira Anwer asked her.

“Not really,” Rocha said. “It’s my second year here so I’m excited to see all the new faces.”

It’s a day James Cecil, the school’s principal, was ready for.

“We’re excited,” Cecil said. “A little nervous, but very excited to start our first day.”

Licata started his day with a ride on a new battery-operated school bus and spoke to Local 10 News and other media outlets during his tour.

“There’s always that feeling of making sure that everything’s running well, you wanna enjoy every bit of it, you want to make sure and you’re capturing it mentally because it is my first day as a superintendent,” Licata said.

At Bennett Elementary School in Fort Lauderdale, third-grade students in Kevin Hellberg’s class were settled in by mid-morning.

“First day jitters are real, real for teachers, real for the students,” Hellberg said.

In the classroom next door, Licata joked that it was his second first day in the Broward school system. He attended McNab Elementary School in Pompano Beach as a child.

“It’s just one of those days that you remember for the rest of your life,” he said.

Here are some preliminary numbers in Broward: The total enrollment for district schools is almost 203,000 students and enrollment is down by about 2,800. Teacher vacancies are at 145.

The sixth largest school district in the country is now back in session and at times front-and-center of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ culture wars.

On Monday, Licata had a clear message to teachers.

“We’re going to protect teachers at all costs,” he said. “We’re going to make sure they understand that they can stay on the standards, teach what’s the curriculum and be supported by us.”

Licata said enrollment numbers may go up because typically the district sees a rise in enrolled students after Labor Day weekend.

About the Authors:

Saira Anwer joined the Local 10 News team in July 2018. Saira is two-time Emmy-nominated reporter and comes to South Florida from Madison, Wisconsin, where she was working as a reporter and anchor.

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.