Who is Earlean Smiley? What to know about Broward’s new interim school superintendent

After months of chaos, the Broward School Board named Earlean Smiley as interim superintendent, replacing Vickie Cartwright, who resigned Tuesday after a tumultuous six months leading the nation’s sixth-largest school district.

At its Tuesday meeting, the board voted 7-2 to name Smiley as interim; the board and the district’s general counsel will begin negotiating with Smiley, 71, a retired former Broward deputy superintendent and former principal at Blanche Ely High in Pompano Beach.

READ MORE: Broward school board to pay ousted superintendent almost $268,000 in severance

Because Smiley isn’t a current Broward district employee, the board appointed a “tasked assigned” superintendent, associate superintendent Valerie Wanza, who has been with the school district since 1992. Wanza will return to her regular post after the board officially hires Smiley as interim.

Here’s what to know about the school district’s temporary top official:

Who is Smiley?

Since 2014, Smiley has been an educational consultant for In Rem Solutions, Inc. and Assistance Unlimited, Inc., where she designed a K-8 learning model and provided training for teachers and administrators.

Smiley’s career in education dates back to 1974, when she began teaching in the Broward district. Over the years, she rose to assistant principal from 1987 to 1991, high school principal from 1994 to 2000 and deputy superintendent for curriculum and instruction from 2000 to 2010.

Outside of Broward, she was a superintendent for McCormick County Public School District in South Carolina from 2010 to 2013 and was a curriculum designer for Gaston County Schools in North Carolina from 1992 to 1993. She was also an adjunct professor at Nova Southeastern University from 1992 to 2000.

She earned a master’s degree in administration and supervision from Nova in 1984 and a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from the University of South Dakota in 1992.

How did Smiley come to mind?

Smiley’s name has been brought up as a possible interim on three different occasions: by Torey Alston in November when he was School Board chair; by current Board chair Lori Alhadeff in December; and now by the DeSantis-appointed board member Daniel Foganholi, who motioned Tuesday to name Smiley interim.

Smiley swore Alston into his District 2 seat on the board on Tuesday, Aug. 30. Alston was one of four men whom Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed to the board on Friday, Aug. 26, after DeSantis removed four sitting board members — all women and elected to their seats — earlier that day. DeSantis cited a grand jury report in their removal. Alston is an alum of Blanche Ely High School, where Smiley had been a principal.

Torey Alston, District 2, hugs Dr. Earlean Smiley before she swore him in to the Broward School Board on Aug. 30, 2022.
Torey Alston, District 2, hugs Dr. Earlean Smiley before she swore him in to the Broward School Board on Aug. 30, 2022.

What do board members think about the selection?

Foganholi told the Miami Herald on Monday that Smiley’s track record speaks for itself. As a well-respected educator, Smiley can help the board as it prepares to hire someone for the permanent job.

“She can take us to a place where we want to be again,” he said. “We want to be an A district. We want someone who is going to be a bold leader.”

Alhadeff, too, praised Smiley after the vote.

“I know that through Dr. Earlean Smiley’s strong leadership, [she will] be able to lead the district in a direct way that we can meet our strategic plan, make sure that we are educating all of our students, that safety is a top priority and that we become an A-school district.”