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.
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.
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.