Broward County Public Schools Hires Yet Another Interim Superintendent

Dr. Earlean Smiley agreed to terms with Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) to serve as the school district’s interim superintendent. The retired school administrator was selected by the school board in a 7-2 vote. She was Superintendent of McCormick County Public School District in South Carolina from 2010 to 2013 and was the Principal of Blanche Ely High School. 

School Board negotiations were led by Chair Lori Alhadeff. Smiley’s compensation package is said to be valued at approximately $300,000. 

The move comes after the departure of controversial Superintendent Dr. Vickie Cartwright. After agreeing to a separation agreement, Cartwright said, “I am confident that the district will continue to thrive under new leadership, and I do wish the district continued success in the future. Thank you for your support and your understanding.”

Smiley’s initial focus will be on improving the culture within the district’s administration. 

“I’ve heard many board members talk about toxic culture,” Smiley said, “I want to move out of the culture that we’re in, to a culture where we can thrive at every level.”

Smiley, who is 71 years old, will fill the role as the School District looks for its fourth leader in just three years.

“She has a no-nonsense personality, and I believe that is what Broward County Public Schools needs right now,” said Broward School Board Chair Lori Alhadeff, “This is how I know that she’s going to be tough but fair and a very strong leader.”

Leadership at BCPS has been a political hotbed since the Tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. The fact that the school board and Dr. Cartwright were frequently at odds with Governor Ron Desantis during the COVID pandemic made matters only more difficult. Desantis frequently quarreled with Broward County over back-to-school rules and mask requirements. 

The rift between Tallahassee and BCPS culminated when Desantis removed four board members last August. He had convened a Grand Jury to investigate the root causes of the Parkland tragedy and used his powers as governor to remove the board members after the grand jury’s findings suggested the school board was partially at fault. 

Desantis’ hand-picked replacement board members were at odds with Cartwright from the moment they took their seats, eventually voting to terminate her during a late-night meeting just days before three of them were to be replaced following the November election. In a twist of fate worthy of a TV melodrama, Cartwright was reinstated by the new board two weeks later, only to be pushed out for good a month later.

Dr. Smiley will remain interim superintendent until the board recruits a new, permanent leader. Finding the best candidate to lead the nation’s sixth-largest school district will likely be a challenge, given the chaotic history of the last three years. Dr. Cartwright was hired after former Superintendent Dr. Robert Runcie was indicted for allegedly lying to a grand jury in 2021.

“We’re not looking to rush it, but we want to make sure that we have Dr. Smiley in place for enough time for us to be able to do the national search for a permanent superintendent,” said Alhadeff.