By Bryan Boggiano
Broward County Public Schools now has a new superintendent: Dr. Peter Licata.
The school board voted Thursday, where a supermajority of the members selected Licata as their first-choice candidate, and they unanimously chose to start contract negotiations with him. He will replace Interim Superintendent Dr. Earlean Smiley.
Their vote follows discussions and interviews with community members and principals. Licata participated in these deliberations in addition to two other finalists, Detroit School District Deputy Superintendent Luis Solano and East Baton Rouge, Louisiana, School District Superintendent Sito Narcisse.
Before the board’s vote, Licata was a teacher, coach, curriculum director, assistant principal, and principal in Palm Beach County. He was also an assistant superintendent and regional superintendent in the county, where he oversaw 60 schools and 65,000 students, according to his application.
Board members praised him as a forward thinker who knows Broward County, understands the issues facing students, is knowledgeable on state law, knows the issues facing underserved and marginalized communities, is accountable and prepared, and can devise a vision and put it into practice.
“We need someone who can execute, and I think that Dr. Licata is that person,” said Chair Lori Alhadeff.
Similarly, Member Sara Leonardi said she sees Licata as somebody who always puts students first, does their homework, and is knowledgeable on this district. She said she wants somebody who will help the district move forward and serve as a fresh start for the board and the community.
“I want someone who wants us,” Leonardi said.
Vice Chair Debra Hixon complimented Licata’s energy, focus on the students, and knowledge on what it takes to become an A district.
Member Daniel Foganholi expressed concerns the superintendent search was rushed, but Member Allen Zeman disagreed, saying the board had to pick the best person for the job.
Ultimately, seven board members chose Licata as their first choice: Alhadeff, Hixon, Foganholi, Dr. Jeff Holness, Leonardi, Nora Rupert, and Zeman.
Members Brenda Fam and Tori Alston selected Narcisse as their first choice. However, both members and the rest of the board voted to start contract negotiations with Licata.
Nicole Morst, Coral Springs parent and North Regional Advisory Council high school representative feels positive about Licata’s appointment. However, she said parents across the district would be watching and ready to hold him accountable to his word.
“I look forward to fresh leadership,” Morst said. “He claims to know the formula to make Broward an A district, so I’m hopeful for that.”
Cynthia Dominique, the advisory council’s chair, said the decisions Licata makes and how he allocates funding and resources will prove what he prioritizes. She said she hopes the new superintendent values advisory stakeholder recommendations, meets with advisor chairs, and goes to meetings.
She said now that the district selected a new superintendent, there can be more focus on students and learning.
Dominique said, “I am hopeful that he will be the transformational leader that we need.”
Negotiations are scheduled to take place on June 21 and June 22. The school board will vote on a final contract at a June 29 special meeting.
- Bryan has a degree in journalism from the University of Florida and earned his masters in geosciences from Florida International University, where he focused in atmospheric sciences. His interests include weather, entertainment, and municipal government.
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