School board delays decision on embattled Broward school superintendent

Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie (Photo: Broward Sheriff's Office)

A Florida school board will vote next week on a severance package for its superintendent who offered his resignation after a grand jury investigating the circumstances surrounding the  2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School indicted him on a perjury charge.

Broward County School Board Chairwoman Rosalind Osgood said during a Thursday morning meeting that she "will move as expeditiously as possible," but stressed that she wants a "clean and fair process."

The board may also determine at the special May 6 meeting whether Robert Runcie will stay on for 90 days to help guide the transition until a replacement is named.

Runcie has overseen the district, which is the nation’s sixth-largest public school district, for nearly 10 years. He offered to step down Tuesday night hours after he vowed in a video statement that he would be vindicated of the perjury charges that grand jurors leveled against him earlier this month.

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Two issues the statewide grand jury investigated are whether Broward County school officials misappropriated millions of dollars from a bond measure partially aimed at improving campus safety and whether officials intentionally underreported on-campus crimes committed by students. The grand jury concluded its work earlier this month, but its final report has not been released.

Since the shooting, Runcie and Broward County district administrators have been accused by critics of lying about school crime rates and discipline problems in official reports. For example, Stoneman Douglas reported zero incidents of bullying among its 3,200 students between 2014 and 2017 and three incidents of vandalism.

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Runcie was arrested last week after grand jurors said he lied in an official proceeding, which is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

More than a dozen people showed up Thursday in support of Runcie.

Carla Roundtree, a former PTA member and parent, said she was brokenhearted by attacks leveled at Runcie. "This school board has turned it into a political witch hunt," Roundtree said.

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De Palazzo, Safe Schools Director, praised Runcie for always going out of his way to support LGBTQ staff and students and hearing their concerns. Broward Commissioner Dale Holness said Runcie was an honorable man who has made great personal sacrifices to serve with distinction.

"To see him go out like this is painful," he said, urging the board to negotiate a fair settlement. "The eyes of this community are on you. We’re not going to look away. Though he may be going out, we’re still going to pay attention to make sure you do what’s right."

Holness and several other leaders from the Black community said the case against Runcie has become political, racial and economic in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting that pitted some parents from the mostly white, affluent neighborhood, against Runcie, who is Black.

School board member Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter Alyssa was killed in the shooting, urged the board not to give Runcie his full severance, which could be around $130,000 under state rules, plus an additional roughly $196,000 of vacation and sick pay.

"I urge you to do what’s in the best interest of our students, not what’s in the best interest of Mr. Runcie," she said.

She also pushed the board to hire outside legal counsel that hasn’t previously done business with the school district and could be biased.