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New superintendent promises 'a different Broward County Public Schools'

 Peter Licata speaks to principals on Wednesday, June 14, 2023.
Gerard Albert III
Peter Licata speaks to principals on Wednesday, June 14, 2023.

In his first week on the job as Broward schools' new superintendent, Dr. Peter Licata told WLRN he'll lead with integrity, be a "visible" presence in the district and the community, and will put students first. He also said he's committed to bringing comprehensive sex ed back to the district.

The new superintendent of Florida’s second largest school district says he’s establishing a new brand of leadership in Broward County Public Schools.

Dr. Peter Licata says his tenure will be marked by uncompromising ethics and a willingness to 'get his hands dirty' working on the academic, facilities and workforce challenges facing the district — and to push back against forces that “aren’t good for children."

On the latest episode of the South Florida Roundup, Licata joined host Tim Padgett and education reporter Kate Payne to talk about his first week on the job, leading BCPS and his priorities going forward.

“It won't be an office job. And yes, I do have some formidable political agendas that I have to work through,” Licata said. "One of the things I've said to the board members is I will not take a job if I have to compromise my value system. And my value system right now is pretty high … So if I model that … you're going to see a different Broward County Public Schools.”

READ MORE: Superintendent Licata — Broward board approves contract with new schools chief

One of the most contentious issues facing public education in Florida is the rising tide of censorship aimed at restricting how issues like race, identity and history can be talked about in the classroom. State officials and “parental rights” activists have been pushing for restrictions on LGBTQ issues and books that center people of color.

“We want parents involved,” Licata said. “We want to expose our students to things that they may not get at home or may not have the resources to get. But we also want to make sure the parents are in concert with us, not in competition or in conflict with us … We just can't let the outliers confuse us or conflate the issue.”

Licata acknowledged he is bound to uphold state law, but also said Broward schools could have a role to play in changing what those laws are.

“I can control what I can control. We have to follow statute. Doesn't mean we're not going to be very active in Tallahassee,” Licata said.

“We have three really strong counties that are very similar between Dade, Palm Beach and Broward. And we're going to work together and maybe give some of our weight up there and try and look forward and say, 'This is not good for education, this is not good for children.'”

One of the many side effects of the new state restrictions is that BCPS did not offer sex education during the 2022-2023 school year, a lapse that some school board members described as a major failure.

Speaking to WLRN, Licata said he's committed to bringing comprehensive sex ed back to the district.

“I'm a little concerned that you were looking at my email when my computer was up because that's what I was working on as you guys were calling in,” Licata joked. “We are going to be bringing back some of those items.”

Also on this episode of the South Florida Roundup, we talked about how inflation is heating up in the region and what’s next for a Tequesta archeological site in Brickell that developers want to build on.

To listen to the full conversation, click here.

Copyright 2023 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit WLRN 91.3 FM.

As a Tallahassee native, Kate Payne grew up listening to WFSU. She loves being part of a station that had such an impact on her. Kate is a graduate of the Florida State University College of Motion Picture Arts. With a background in documentary and narrative filmmaking, Kate has a broad range of multimedia experience. When she’s not working, you can find her rock climbing, cooking or hanging out with her cat.