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Senator briefly proposes state oversight of Broward school district

Tucked into a catchall education bill heard in a Florida Senate panel Wednesday was language to create a state oversight board to manage the embattled Broward school district.

Sen. Stephen Wise, a Jacksonville Republican, proposed an amendment to his Senate Bill 1696 to mention Broward and the creation of an oversight board. The bill, under the title "Public School Accountability," deals with a variety of policies, including rules for middle schoolers to move on to high school and to screen new pre-kindergarten students.

The seven-member board -- appointed by the governor, the Senate President and the House Speaker -- would provide "advice" and assess the district, at the district's expense.

At the Senate Pre-K-12 Education Committee on Wednesday, Wise, the panel's chairman, withdrew the amendment -- for this year.

Wise said that because Broward Schools Superintendent Jim Notter announced his retirement Tuesday night, the senator would give the district until next year to "get their act together."

"We want to make sure that all parties have a chance to correct the actions -- I think that they will," Wise said, citing a blistering statewide grand jury report last month that detailed widespread corruption in Broward. He called the pulled amendment a warning, not just for Broward but for all districts.

"We thought that we would just send the shot over the bow," he said.

Wise acknowledged an oversight board would be contentious. But his goal, he said, is "that people don't end up with grand jury indictments."

Former Broward School Board member Beverly Gallagher is serving time in federal prison on corruption charges, and former member Stephanie Kraft faces state corruption charges. She has pleaded not guilty.