Where Do We Go From Here: The DeFacto Superintendent

By Bobby R. Henry, Sr.

In one of the first articles written by me concerning Broward School Superintendent Cartwright, I stated that the article wasn’t about, Dr. Valerie Wanza: well now it is.

This title of the article mirrors what is known to be one of Dr. Martin Luther King’s final pieces of work.

It is sparsely known that around 1967, King checked himself into a rentalproperty
in Jamaica to isolate himself from the world for some introflection and peace of mind.

With no telephone or modern way of communicating, King was left with only his thoughts of the movement, paper and writing utensils. Being the visionary
that we know him to be, King eloquently expressed his thoughts, dreams, and the blueprint for the future of America. His focus was not simply about race; it included ensuring Americans had equal access to better paying employment opportunities that yielded higher wages, affordable and decent housing, and educational opportunities for all. His message was one of great importance and it continues to resonate today.

Over history, there are very few who have exhibited the sort of inspirational, visionary leadership that galvanized people around a common cause the way King did.

The way Malcolm X did.
The way Harriet Tubman did.
The way Mahatmas Ghandi did.
The way Rosa Parks did.
The way Barack Obama did.
The way that Volodymyr Zelensky is doing right now.

The sort of vision that these leaders had is desperately needed today. As America tries to reposition itself as the model of democracy after January 6, Broward schools similarly is trying to find its way back to what it once was prior to the MSD tragedy, a national pandemic and failed leadership over the last twelve years.

Though Broward schools is not on a national stage,  it is in crisis and desperately needs the right leader to bring it out of the debilitating trauma that is a part of its sick culture and is responsible for its downward spiral from esteem to national disgrace.

Who the Board selects as its interim superintendent and eventual permanent will determine where it goes from here.

There is only one to seriously consider for the acting if the district is serious about reclaiming the position of status it once had. If the acting must come from within, then it must be Dr. Valerie Wanza.  Period. Point. Blank. Remove the politics, hurt feelings and begrudging spirit and do what is best for kids… all kids. Currently Wanza’s name isn’t even on a Board item and it’s troubling because we all know that if the two insiders whose names are floating around are appointed, Wanza will become the de facto superintendent. When comparing the resume of Wanza to both Ernie Lozano and Jermaine Fleming, it is bewildering to think that the Board is still willing to play these silly games after all it’s just gone through with Vickie Cartwright and Robert Runcie.  It is troubling to hear rumblings that Wanza is not being considered because she comes from the Runcie Regime. Well, so does Lozano and Fleming because they both worked for Wanza under the Runcie Regime.  What is probably most concerning is both Lozano and Fleming worked themselves up to Executive level positions under Cartwright, the superintendent who just got fired not once, not twice, not thrice, but FOUR times.

This is not an attack on Lozano and Fleming. These are just facts. The collective experience that these two gentlemen have pales in comparison to Wanza’s education and experience. You can put both their resumes together and put their collective work against Wanza’s and they are left in smoke. This Board, if not seriously considering Wanza was the insider pick, will simply yield more of the same. If they bypass Wanza and select an insider who doesn’t hold a thimble full of her institutional knowledge and educational and leadership acumen, they should flip again and rehire Cartwright for a fifth time. While that may sound crazy, it is no less crazy than hiring someone who is not equipped for a short-term interim job because of issues that have nothing to do with the job. Every single Board member, past and present, has relied on Wanza to be the steady hand to lead and stabilize the district.  Even as she was demoted in her position title by Cartwright, she has remained an invaluable presence at the Executive leadership table.  There is no denying it so why are they denying her to do the job she is doing anyway and will continue doing as de facto superintendent in the case Lozano or Fleming is named interim.

If the district is willing to include applicants from the outside as interim superintendent, again, there are only a couple choices.  Dr. Earlean Smiley or Dr. Valerie Wanza. Selecting Dr. Smiley would protect Wanza from unnecessary scrutiny when a permanent superintendent is eventually selected. Smiley has what it takes to lead the school district. She is a proven executive leader who has held the position of superintendent, and she served on the executive leadership team in Broward for well over a decade under multiple superintendents.  She has respectful relationships with several Board members: Alston, Hixon, and Rupert, and they are familiar with her competence, integrity, and straight talk/straight understanding way of conducting business.
She is exactly what this Board needs, but arguably not at all what they want.

Smiley will do the right thing for the right reasons and that scares the hell out of some on this Board. The quid pro quo and control they have had over former superintendents would cease to exist. A handful of them are afraid of a Smiley superintendency even if it’s only as interim for a short duration.

Broward County Public Schools is in crisis.  It desperately needs firm leadership.  All research points to Black and Hispanic women as being most effective in turnaround leadership and Broward schools desperately needs turnaround.

The Westside Gazette “endorses” Dr. Earlean Smiley as interim superintendent when considering outsiders, however, if the intention is to name an insider, politics aside, Dr. Valerie Wanza is the only choice. To do anything else is just foolishness and this crazy Board might as well call another meeting and reinstate Vickie Cartwright.

Broward schools won’t get any better until the adults stop the politricking and simply do what is best for children.

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