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Broward School Board picks seven semifinalists in superintendent search

Broward School Board Torey Alston, District 2, right, addresses a search firm executive while reviewing candidates for the Broward school superintendent job, Tuesday, May 2, 2023, in downtown Fort Lauderdale.
Alie Skowronski
Miami Herald
Broward School Board Torey Alston, District 2, right, addresses a search firm executive while reviewing candidates for the Broward school superintendent job, Tuesday, May 2, 2023, in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

The Broward County School Board has picked seven semifinalists in the search for the school district’s next leader.

The pool includes one internal candidate, an administrator from the neighboring School District of Palm Beach County, and other contenders who have worked in the Detroit, Chicago, Houston and Washington, D.C. public school systems.

The seven semifinalists are:

  • Dr. Peter Licata, Regional Superintendent, School District of Palm Beach County
  • Dr. Jason Nault, Associate Superintendent, Waukegan Community Unit School District #60
  • Dr. Sito Narcisse, Superintendent of East Baton Rouge Parish School System
  • Wanda Paul, Chief Operating Officer of Houston Independent School District
  • Dr. Rita Raichoudhuri, former superintendent of Kalamazoo Public Schools
  • Luis Solano, Deputy Superintendent, Detroit Public Schools Community District
  • Dr. Valerie Wanza, Acting Chief of Staff, Broward County Public Schools

At a special meeting on Monday, school board members ranked their top picks and those seven rose to the top, out of 31 total applicants — 17 of which were deemed qualified.

Notably, all 9 board members voted to advance Solano. Licata received seven votes, Wanza got six, Nault five and the others tied with four votes each.

READ MORE: Five more people apply to lead Broward schools, but only two are 'qualified'

Board Member Allen Zeman says he’s confident that one of the seven can be Broward’s next top leader — and make the changes district leaders want to see.

“The board across the whole group has been clear that we need a change agent. We need someone who will bring transformation, instill a new culture, and make sure that the board, the senior staff and 14,000 teachers and everyone else that works here is committed to what we're doing,” Zeman said.

Each of the seven semifinalists met the school district’s qualification for the job, according to the search firm hired by the district, McPherson & Jacobson. The candidates have passed a preliminary reference check and a screening of their social media posts.

The next step for the semifinalists is to submit video responses to a series of questions from the district about their leadership style and background. The videos are due May 25.

The questions are:

  1. Please describe your administrative experiences and background that have prepared you for the position of Superintendent of Schools in Broward County, the sixth largest school district in the country.
  2. Just recently, as a result of unprecedented rainfall in Broward County, many of the schools experienced significant water damage due to flooding. Schools and District offices were closed for two days. Please describe how you would have addressed this issue through your leadership skills.
  3. Should you be appointed as the next Superintendent of Schools in Broward County, please describe your 90 day transition-in plan.

Board Chair Lori Alhadeff said she wants to hear how the contenders will respond to crises and challenges. Her daughter Alyssa was one of the 17 people murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018.
“For me, it's really about the candidates being able to tell me how they're going to handle certain situations,” Alhadeff said. “Because at the end of the day, you can have people talk … but you really need to know … when we get into situations like COVID or a threat at a school, their leadership and how they're actually going to take action and handle those issues.”

Board members will review the candidates’ video responses and are scheduled to pick finalists at a meeting on Tuesday May 30.

The finalists will be invited to Broward to meet with community stakeholders and have one-on-one meetings with board members on June 14, and then sit for public interviews with the full board on June 15.

Kate Payne is WLRN's Education Reporter. Reach her at kpayne@wlrnnews.org
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