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Deputy superintendent latest in string of Broward school departures

Judith Marte is retiring early as deputy superintendent of operations for Broward Schools, the latest in a string of high-profile departures from the school district.

Marte, who has worked for the district during two stints since 2017, sent a letter to Interim Superintendent Howard Hepburn on Monday saying she planned to retire June 30.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to serve our students, families and community,” Marte wrote Hepburn in a letter dated Monday. “It has been an honor to serve alongside such talented colleagues, and a privilege to lead an amazing group of hardworking professionals in Finance and Operations.”

Marte, 65, has been enrolled in a state deferred retirement program since 2020 and had planned to retire June 30, 2025, according to district records. It’s unclear why she decided to retire a year early. She couldn’t be reached Monday by the South Florida Sun Sentinel, despite attempts by phone.

Her departure follows a number of other recent top-level leaders who have left the district in recent months.

The highest profile one was Superintendent Peter Licata, who told the School Board on April 16, barely nine months on the job, that he planned to retire Dec. 31 for health reasons. The School Board voted to immediately replace him with Hepburn, who had served as deputy superintendent for teaching and learning since August.

Licata’s separation negotiations with Board Chairwoman Lori Alhadeff are scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday.

A few days after Licata’s announcement, Deborah Czubkowski, who was hired in October as chief facilities officer, submitted her resignation. She has accepted a job as vice president for facilities at Broward College, where she worked for 15 years, most recently as associate vice president for facilities. She called the college “an incredible place to work,” in an interview Monday with the Sun Sentinel.

When the Broward College vice president job opened, Czubkowski wasn’t going to apply for it, because she’d made a commitment to the school district, she said.

“But then when Dr. Licata resigned, I said, ‘sometimes you have to listen to the signs,’” she said. “I took it as a sign.”

Zoie Saunders, who served only three months as chief strategy and innovation officer, resigned in late March after Vermont Gov. Phil Scott nominated her to be the state’s education secretary. The Senate voted last week not to confirm her for the permanent job, but Scott has still placed her in the job on an interim basis.

Two Broward schools directors also have recently resigned: Jill Young, who headed enrollment and demographics, and Mary Coker, who oversaw procurement and warehousing services. Coker took a job as general services director for Pompano Beach. Young couldn’t be reached for comment.

Marte, who was a longtime administrator for the Miami-Dade School District, was hired by former Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie as chief financial officer in 2017. Shortly after Runcie announced his resignation in the spring of 2021, Marte left to accept a job as chief financial officer for Florida Virtual School.

When Vickie Cartwright was hired as permanent superintendent in early 2022, she recruited Marte for one of two newly created deputy superintendent positions.

But Marte’s future appeared uncertain later that year when a statewide grand jury report was released. She was one of four administrators still working with the district who was named unfavorably in the report.

Cartwright forced out the other three, amid pressure from the state. But she saved Marte, who was accused of making statements related to the $800 million bond program for school construction that the grand jury found problematic.

The grand jury said Marte misled the School Board related to an $800 million bond for school construction, by saying it would not create an additional tax burden for the public if the district took out more bonds beyond what was voter-approved. The grand jury said she failed to mention that the action meant there would be less money for maintenance work.

Cartwright argued Marte’s statement was accurate and told state officials she reached out to a financial adviser and a school financing lawyer, who both agreed with Marte’s comments about no additional tax burden.

It’s unclear whether Marte’s position will remain on the superintendent’s organization chart, which Hepburn plans to present to the School Board on May 14.

“We wish Mrs. Marte well in the next phase of her life,” Hepburn wrote to School Board members Monday. “She has truly been an asset to staff, families and students of Broward County Public Schools.”

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