South Florida Sun Sentinel | By Scott Travis | July 7, 2021
Three former superintendents made the cut to temporarily lead the Broward School District through a time of crisis.
The interim superintendent’s job attracted 26 applications, but only three met all the required qualifications, including a master’s degree and 10 years of management experience, the district determined. They are:
- Jim Notter, who was Broward schools superintendent from 2006 to 2011.
- Vickie Cartwright, who just ended a three-year stint as superintendent for the school district in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
- Robert Schiller, who has led six districts over the past 40 years as interim or permanent superintendent.
The School Board plans to review their applications July 20, conduct interviews the next week and negotiate a contract the first week in August. The last day for current Superintendent Robert Runcie, who agreed to resign after his indictment on a perjury charge, will be Aug. 10.
School Board members say they want to keep an open mind about all three candidates. Notter is the clear favorite among employee groups, including ones representing teachers, principals, bus drivers, maintenance workers, clerical workers and food service personnel.
“He knows the system from top to bottom, and no one will be able to pull the wool over his eyes,” said Dan Reynolds, president of the Federation of Public Employees labor union. “He’ll make sure the ship gets steered in the interim.”
All three candidates live in Florida and say they are ready to take on the challenges of a school district struggling with declining enrollment, a floundering school renovation program, the felony indictments of top administrators and a pending grand jury report about the district’s operations.
The candidate chosen will not be able to apply for the permanent superintendent job.
The new school year starts Aug. 18 for students.
“I’d be able to walk in with my eyes wide open, provide a seamless transition to help open the schools and provide leadership on a day-to-day basis,” said Schiller, 74, who lives in Stuart.
His resume is vast. He served as a superintendent for six school districts from 1981 to 2016, two on an interim basis, including Baltimore City Public Schools.
He’s also been a perennial job candidate for superintendent jobs in Florida, applying in Palm Beach, Polk, Pinellas and Martin counties.
Schiller’s only full-time leadership role in Florida, as human resources chief for Martin County schools, ended badly after two months in 2012. He was accused of using work time and assets for personal business, a charge he denies, while he accused the superintendent at the time of being “inept and unethical,” according to a letter he wrote to the same school district last year when he applied to be superintendent.
Cartwright, 50, was an associate superintendent in Orange County, where she’d worked for 17 years, when she left Florida in 2018 to be superintendent in Oshkosh.
She resigned from that job this year amid pressure. Along with frustration from some parents and school administrators about how the district was run during the pandemic, she also lost key supporters on the board after an election this year.
She said during her tenure she was successful at getting community support for a referendum to build new schools while closing ones that were under-enrolled. Cartwright also said she was effective at securing grants and partnerships to provide mental health and other services not fully funded by the state.
Her district has also been affected by school violence and out-of-control COVID-19 rates during her tenure, she said.
“I’ve had to deal with high pressure and crisis-type situations,” she said.
As to why she wants to take on a temporary superintendent’s job, Cartwright, who owns a house in the Orlando area, said she wants a permanent job in the state. “This affords me the opportunity to get back into Florida.”
Notter, 74, who moved to West Palm Beach during his retirement, left Broward during its last grand jury report. That report focused mainly on School Board members but criticized Notter for not standing up to the board.
“I felt that the distraction of’ the probe. productivity and success of the schools was paramount. and retiring at that time was the right thing to do,” he said in his cover letter. “I wanted to see the continued success of the district moving forward, although I knew I had more life and passion to give to public education and administration.”
As to criticisms that hiring Notter would be returning the school district to the past, he told the South Florida Sun Sentinel: “Go back and look at the data. Student achievement is our primary mission. My last four years, we were an A-rated district.”
It’s a status the district was never able to achieve under Runcie’s tenure, as the school district was perenially B-rated.