Broward Schools Face Big Changes

BY BUDDY NEVINS

 

Be prepared parents, teachers, administrators, activists, gadflies and anyone else interested in the Broward schools: Big changes are coming.

Correct that. Big changes will be attempted in 2013.

Just two are enough to fill the agenda and the School Board auditorium all year. They are:

  • Dumping the towering downtown Fort Lauderdale marble-and-glass School Board headquarters – derided for years as “The Crystal Palace”. Being discussed is a trade for a bank building near Interstate 95 and Cypress Creek Road.
  • Closing under-enrolled schools.

 

Both changes are needed.

Both changes are being fine-tuned by Superintendent Robert Runcie, who was hired to transform the system.

He’s slowly doing it and these two moves would be a step in the right direction.

Last last year, Runcie pushed out three top administrators who he believed were preventing what he was trying to accomplish.

It was a gutsy, bold move.

Runcie recognizes that the biggest problem, let me repeat, The Biggest Problem is that school administrators are seldom punished for inaction or insubordination.

There is an endemic refusal to recognize that the world outside the schoolhouse door changing.  But the school bureaucracy refuses to change.

That’s why Runcie’s move against administrators was so important.  It sent a message through The Crystal Palace that a new day had dawned.

Let’s hope the school administrators got the message.

New Offices

Many of those administrators should soon have new offices.  The plan to trade the Crystal Palace for another building was first revealed by Browardbeat.com here.

It got off on the wrong foot because the process was shrouded in secrecy, giving it the smell of an inside deal.   Hopefully it will go forward with total transparency.

A downtown Fort Lauderdale headquarters never made sense.

There are few places in Broward County that are more unsuitable for a School Board headquarters than the Crystal Palace. It is a continuing example that the School Board is consumer unfriendly.

The headquarters sends a message to the public: We don’t want you here.

It is miles from any Interstate and to get there, drivers must weave through endless bumper-to-bumper traffic. Parking is hard to find and expensive.

A location near one of the Interstates makes more sense.  It would be easier for the public to attend meetings and attend to School Board business.

Some staff now in leased space around the county hopefully could be moved into the new headquarters, saving tax money.

The Crystal Palace was a purchase cooked up by a handful of insiders. It was part of an elaborate property trade that lobbyists got their stooges on the School Board to agree to it.  That was two decades ago.

The building being considered also involves a longtime school lobbyist, as a second Browardbeat.com story indicated  Let’s hope the new School Board is wiser than the old one and that they have an open, competitive search for a new headquarters.

Closing Schools

Transparency is also vital in the expected effort to close some schools.  With the public system bleeding students because of charter and private schools, there is little need for all the current schools and staff.

I expect under-enrolled schools, many of them in eastern Broward, to be shuttered and the students sent to other places nearby.

Nothing is more controversial.  Board members will have to have the backbone to resist the pleas of parents.

There is no necessity for the school system to remain the same size when roughly 10 percent of the students have left.

Change is sometimes painful. But change is needed….especially in our school system.

 



13 Responses to “Broward Schools Face Big Changes”

  1. Wayne Arnold says:

    If Superintendent Robert Runcie can achieve all of the goals outlined in your column he will be worth every dollar in salary he is being paid. At the very least he is to be lauded for the changes he proposes.

  2. Panda Bear says:

    Not a bad move for Runcie, however, why shut down all of these under-utilized schools? Why not study the size, capacity, the geographic location, and parking facilites of each of those buildings and save the largest and best located for the School Board Headquarters? That would save even more money. Why keep working with bank buildings if there are spare school buildings that can work just fine! With a little cosmetic work they could have a fine building in no time. Then, while he’s at it, Runcie should combine departments and knock off a couple dozen administrators at their headquarters, which would translate into way over $4M of more savings! There are many ways to shave off costs.

  3. Charlotte Greenbarg says:

    Yes, we’ve been discussing these much-needed changes for years,but the prior boards have buckled under lobbyists’ pressure.

    Questions arise, such as how much it would cost to occupy the bank building, and whether there’s enough space for the administration in KCW as well as those elsewhere. The “L” word is not a good one when deals such as this are involved.

    Of course, the goal of getting a billion dollar bond issue passed is a great incentive for everyone to get with the program Sup’t. Runcie is proposing.

    And the new leaf the district has turned needs to continue until the public is convinced that it’s real. Of course, if and when a bond issues passes, the reformation must not be truncated.

  4. Notocorruption says:

    An extensive presentation to reduce the number of properties leased has been scheduled for the January 8, 2013 workshop. One of the items to be discussed is to end the lease for office space at Sawgrass Technology Park and move staff elsewhere within Board-owned buildings.

  5. Andrew Ladanowski says:

    Big changes also need to still occur in transportation. We are making progress. Last year our budget for transportation was 90 million. Our budget based on per student is supposed to be 50 million. Runcie brought it down to 75 million. This still means we are loosing 25 million dollars a year in transportation that is being taken away from the schools. We need to make sure we can chop another 15 million dollars from transportation next year. We need to improve routes and look at improving efficiency.

  6. Chaz Stevens, Genius says:

    Charlotte Greenbarg says:
    The “L” word is not a good one

    The L word?

    Lebowski?

    What’s the dude got to do with this?

  7. Notocorruption says:

    I would like to know why Student Transportation and Fleet Services is so interested in purchasing another GPS system. Yes, another. Is it to cover over failings of the Director? Throw more money after bad? The School Board had a GPS system for five years. It cost over $800,000. It was never implemented.

  8. Plantation Working Mom says:

    I agree with #2 – use one of the schools for the admin offices. I hope that whatever changes Runcie implements will go smoother than what he did to transportation. That was a total fiasco and there are still routes that make no sense at all.

  9. Charlotte Greenbarg says:

    Chaz, “L” word is for Lobbyists. But you knew that. :)

    Notocorruption, they never implemented GPS because they didn’t want to under the previous regime. Think about what GPS reveals.

    Implementing GPS will save a great deal of money that can be used for pressing needs.

  10. Notocorruption says:

    “Notocorruption, they never implemented GPS because they didn’t want to under the previous regime. Think about what GPS reveals.”

    You are very correct, Ms. Greenbarg.

  11. Hammerhead says:

    Change must be real…not just enough to achieve receipt of bond money. Getting rid of the Crystal Palace is a great start. And by the way, why not make use of several re-purposed schools slated for board up?

    There will still be a need for conveniently located admin sites throughout the county. Then the money from the “sale” of the KCW building can be used for multiple needs. A cubicle or office looks the same in a re-purposed school as it does in some bank building where an owner is looking for a government bail-out.

    This one needs to be analyzed and scrutinized before any moves are made. Come on people, put on your thinking caps and pretend it is your personal finances. What do “empty-nesters” do when faced with more space than their finances can sustain after the kids have gone? They downsize and still leave enough room just in case the kids come back. Think about that please.

  12. Actually Charlotte says:

    He was hoping it referred to lesbians . He needs to get his rock off.

  13. Duke says:

    Back in the day, was there a certain Broward County judge who was allowing defendants to make contributions for some kind of statute or something at the crystal palace to honor the person who the building was named after who happened to be his wife who happened to be on the school board at one time?