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FT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami/AP) – The Broward County’s School Board voted 6-3 on Tuesday afternoon to keep Robert Runcie as Broward’s schools chief.
The vast majority of the Broward community who spoke at Tuesday’s school board meeting was vocal, saying they want Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie to stay in his job.
“It’s well documented that Mr. Runcie through his leadership has improved the district’s academic standing since his hiring in 2011,” said Runcie supporter Johnny McCray.
“Mr. Runcie is present,” said Runcie supporter Debora Aleman. “He’s out in the trenches. He shows up.”
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Several people said that blaming Runcie for the Parkland shooting on Valentine’s Day 2018 is misplaced.
“There is one entity for this calamity we stand here today and he is in a jail cell and his name is not Robert W. Runcie,” said one Runcie supporter.
Board member Lori Alhadeff said the tragedy exposed problems in the school district.
“The tragedy was the symptom which uncovered and highlighted the many failures our system of Broward County Public schools which have not been executed under Mr. Runcie’s leadership,” Alhadeff said.
Board Member Patricia Good said blaming the Superintendent for the failure of the special taxing district in 2013 is wrong.
“That legislation failed,” Good said. “Not because of this Superintendent. It failed on its own merits. To hold him accountable is an unfair statement.”
Board member Lori Levinson said the School District is in strong shape academically due in large part to Runcie’s leadership.
“Our graduation rates since 2011 have been up 18 percent in all schools,” Levinson said, in a lengthy rebuttal to each of Alhadeff’s points in her agenda documents.
Levinson also criticized Alhadeff for waiting until the day before the meeting to released her reasoning behind the motion to terminate Runcie’s contract.
Earlier in the day, board chair Heather Brinkworth said at the start of the meeting, “We anticipate this discussion will be lengthy and robust.”
She added that hundreds had signed up to speak.
“I understand the shooting happened. I don’t think he should be responsible for everything, this man should keep his job,” said Lori Hankerson, the first speaker.
Max Schacter, whose son Alex died in the Parkland shooting, said Runcie has failed the district.
“The most important thing that the Superintendent does, or is supposed to do, is protect our children, our teachers, and educate our youth. He’s failed on all of those counts.”
Schacter said he wanted to talk about “some of the myths perpetrated in this district.”
“On the school district’s website, Broward County Public Schools claims to have a 95 percent graduation rate. But read the small print. This is just for the traditional high schools. The Florida Department of Education tells the real story. In fact, the graduation rate statewide is at an all-time high. Florida’s high school graduation rate rose again this year, hitting an all-time high of 86 percent. But Broward County is only 84 percent, this is behind Palm Beach and Miami-Dade.”
“In 2011, before the Superintendent came to our county, Broward County Public Schools was an “A” school district for four years in a row, The district has never received an “A” rating since the Superintendent was hired,” he added.
A majority of speakers, including schools employees and members of the public, expressed support for Runcie for his vision and leadership.
“I have lived in the city of Coral Springs for over 30 years. I have three children who have graduated under Mr. Runcie. I am here this morning in support of Mr. Runcie. I have mentored for many years in the Broward school system, I have seen the graduation rate increase, I have seen the changes. Mr. Runcie came to Broward County, he welcomed the community, he destroyed barriers we had in the community. As School Board members you have the opportunity to make history. You can either continue to divide the community or you can strengthen the community by voting to keep Mr. Runcie,” said community leader Joanne Fletcher.
Newly elected Board member Lori Alhadeff, whose 14-year-old daughter Alyssa died in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, is pushing to have Runcie dismissed, saying he has exhibited a “willful neglect of duty.”
Aldaheff was the one who put the measure to terminate Runcie’s contract for cause on the agenda.
Several of the speakers told the School Board that the Parkland families were using their agenda and their position to try and remove Runcie. One speaker said, “we must not act out of vengeance.” Another said the Alhadeff was dominating the School Board agenda.
Alhadeff, who put the termination item on the board’s agenda, has the support of other families of the 14 students and three staff members killed.
Alhadeff’s agenda item listed five reasons, she believes, Runcie should be fired.
One being failures from security, safety, and mental health needs uncovered from the Parkland shooting. Next, she said Runcie failed to properly execute the $800 million general obligation fund and overall capital program. She also believes Runcie had issues enforcing Exceptional Student Education (ESE) rules and policies. Fourth, the board member wrote Runcie failed to start an independent Office of Inspector General. Lastly, the board member said Runcie failed to complete timely annual evaluations for senior staff.
Alhadeff doesn’t appear, however, to have enough support among the nine school board members to have Runcie fired. A majority say he has improved the district’s academic standing since his hiring in 2011 and the shooting wasn’t caused by his policies. The district is the nation’s sixth-largest with 327 schools and 270,000 students.
The state gave Broward a “B” in its latest district grades, noting that it has a graduation rate of 84 percent, a 10 percentage point increase over five years. The district says it has increased the number of security officers and cameras and taken other security measures districtwide since the shooting.
Runcie’s contract runs through June 2023.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)