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Broward schools will finally decide on a new superintendent. What to expect.

One of three educators could be hired Thursday as the next superintendent of Broward schools, a move many hope will bring much-needed stability to the turmoil-plagued district.

The Broward School Board will conduct its last interviews at 9 a.m. Thursday for the three finalists vying to be superintendent.

They are:

  • Peter Licata, deputy superintendent for Palm Beach County Schools.
  • Sito Narcisse, superintendent of East Baton Rouge Schools in Louisiana.
  • Luis Solano, deputy superintendent for Detroit schools.

The School Board is scheduled to pick one by Thursday afternoon.

The candidates endured an intense day Wednesday, with 11 rounds of interviews over 10 hours. Each of the nine School Board members held private 35-minute one-on-one interviews with the candidates. Two public forums with questions asked by principals and community members were also held.

A question by community panelist Chris Canter, a parent and district PTA leader, summed up the challenges the next leader will face leading a district that has lost about 20,000 students in the past decade to charter schools, homeschooling and private school vouchers.

“Given the decline in student enrollment as a result of COVID-19, the implementation of the newly enacted state voucher system and the recent much negative press the Broward County public schools has received locally, statewide and nationally within the past two years, how will you re-engage parents of students who have left the district?” Canter asked.

The B-rated school district has struggled since a 2018 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, but the problems intensified in 2021 with a grand jury indicting three administrators, including former Superintendent Robert Runcie, whose case was recently dismissed. A grand jury report released in 2022 blasted the district’s handling of school construction and resulted in the removal of four board members.

All three candidates voiced hope that things will get better for the district.

“Broward County Public Schools has tremendous opportunity and resources,” Narcisse said. “I believe that providing families with options and choice around programs and helping children to be exposed to careers will help.”

Licata said the keys to attracting and keeping families are improving the experience for students, particularly in middle schools where families are least content, becoming an A-rated district and then marketing the district better.

Broward has been a B-rated district for more than a decade while Palm Beach and Miami-Dade have earned A’s in recent years. School Board members have made it a focus to become an A district, even changing the mission statement read at the start of board meetings to reflect that.

“You can’t market a B district very far,” Licata said. “Being in Palm Beach County, you know anything but an A is a failure. That’s just the way it is.”

Licata said he has studied the data and said Broward is a high B and an A is easily attainable by focusing on a few key areas of weakness.

He also said it’s important to fix problems that create negative publicity.

“We have to stop giving material to the media. We have to tell our stories,” he said.

Solano said he’d like to meet with community members and to find out why they are leaving Broward schools.

“I would love to understand why they made that decision. I would like to hear what went well during your child’s tenure with the school district and what we need to improve in that area.”

Solano’s answers, which were often short and non-specific to Broward, frustrated some of the community panelists.

“I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that a person vying for a position in this district should have more information about the district to be able to answer questions,” panelist Narnike Pierre-Grant, a Parkland parent told Solano.

Deidre Ruth, an outspoken parent who champions conservative causes, asked about the state’s parental rights laws passed in recent years that give parents more say in curriculum and restrict teaching of LGBTQ issues.

“I have not fully caught up with this bill,” Solano responded. “If you like, I can if you can exchange numbers and conduct some research and call you.”

Licata responded to the same question saying that he supports parents being involved in their kids’ education.

“Why would we deter parents? Involved parents don’t scare me. Uneducated children do,” he said.

Narcisse responded, “We need to be partners. The school system should be working with families to be able to help educate their child.”

In private meetings with School Board members, two of the candidates, Solano and Narcisse, were asked about past controversies.

Solano was the principal at Miami Norland Senior High in 2012 when a Miami-Dade Office of Inspector General report found a teacher was accused of giving students answers to exams and allowing them to use study guides during testing, according to the Miami Herald. Another teacher was alleged to have witnessed it without intervening, the report found.

“More disturbing, the students who were provided with this cheat sheet or were allowed to use their study guides were taught a lesson that cheating is OK,” the report stated, according to the Herald.

Solano told the South Florida Sun Sentinel that although that was his school, it was done without his approval or knowledge.

“These were teachers going rouge,” he told the Sun Sentinel in an interview Wednesday. “In the [Inspector General] report, it was no mention about anything that administration failed.”

Narcisse’s East Baton Rouge school district participated in a controversial event last fall called “Day of Hope,” which was held at a church and received numerous complaints that it featured religious content and discussions related to rape, suicide, gender and LGBTQ issues that many parents complained were inappropriate.

Narcisse sent a statement to School Board members saying the issues “were investigated by independent counsel and it was determined that Superintendent and staff adhered to policy and protocol in the authorization of the event.”

However, the Baton Rouge district has refused requests by Broward school officials, community members and the media to release the report.

Narcisse told the Sun Sentinel the investigation was discussed in closed-door session, and it would be up to the School Board to release, and it has refused on the advice of lawyers.

“There’s always a concern of litigation,” he said. “It puts me in a very awkward position because, if it was up to me, I would release it.”

He said the district will not hold the event again in the future.

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