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The superintendent has a long to-do list.
Broward County Public Schools starts the school year with learning gaps to bridge among many students: the district still has a teacher shortage, there are new laws complicating what teachers can discuss in class, and we discussed all of that and more with the superintendent Dr. Vickie Cartwright.
“So the biggest priority right now for this school year is actually two-fold: providing that safe and secure environment while also an engaging and challenging academic environment,” Cartwright said.
After two years of pandemic-influenced learning loss, how does she catch everyone back up to where they should be and how is that process going?
“So one of the things that we do and we have been doing and will continue to do is really taking a look at where some of the gaps that exist for each student individually,” Cartwright replied.
At that point, she explained, teaching can be tailored to each student’s needs. Assessments show the biggest gaps are in math.
Cartwright said she’s insisting on having a certified teacher in every classroom on the first day, but the district still has about 150 teacher vacancies.
“We will have to probably pull some of our teachers who work in the district office, temporarily, to insure that we start school on day one with a certified person in front of every child,” said Cartwright.
With new state laws in effect, such as the so-called Don’t Say Gay law, teachers face new restrictions and pressure without clear guidance under the law.
“For example, what happens when a second grader comes to school who may have two mommies or two daddies and they’re the ones who bring it up in the classroom, historically speaking, a teacher would just say, you know, all families come different, they look different, they interact differently, we’re all different and would’ve kept the conversation moving,” Cartwright said. “Now that second grade teacher may be going, OK, how do I support this child without violating the law? And so we’re in this great big gray area.”
The superintendent says the district will always strive to make every student, regardless of orientation, comfortable at school, saying school should be a safe space for all.
She’s also urging parents to remind kids that social media threats against schools are not funny, they’re felonies.
“Please partner with us, please, please, please, check your child’s backpack, if they’re driving, check their car, make sure that they’re not bringing something to school that will get them in trouble,” she said.
School security, the superintendent says, starts at home, and academic success depends on being in school. Attendance matters and the district wants your kids in the classroom every day, ready to go on day one.