BY BUDDY NEVINS
Maybe, just maybe, the Broward County School Board is really changing.
Maybe insiders like big-money real estate mogul Terry Stiles no longer have control of Board members.
On Tuesday School Board members will consider what was unthinkable just a few years ago: End a lease in a Stiles-project.
Considering alternatives to spending $3.124 million annually for leasing office space is an initiate of Superintendent Robert Runcie.
The biggest lease: $1.645 million-a-year at the Sawgrass Technology Park just south of the Sawgrass Mills Mall in Sunrise. Just under 500 work at the complex, which is owned by Stiles’ company.
Look up a list of Broward County insiders and Terry Stiles will be at the top. He is a premier member of the Downtown Fort Lauderdale Good Ol’ Boys Club, a group of wealthy political string-pullers.
Stiles inherited a small residential construction company from his Daddy and turned it into one of the biggest development firms in South Florida. When you build much of downtown Fort Lauderdale and dozens of buildings in the rest of Broward, you earn a place in “The Good Ol’ Boys Club.”
The former scandal-stained School Board wouldn’t dream of cancelling a big lease with Stiles. He’s a regular source of campaign money and an associate of many other contributors.
But the old Board habit of spending to favor plugged-in developers and lobbyists was blasted in a stinging statewide Grand Jury report a few years ago.
(Stiles was not mentioned by the Grand Jury and was never accused of wrong doing.)
That old Board is out of office – in jail or chose not to run again. This is a new Board and a new superintendent.
So instead of pouring money into Stiles’ pocket, Board members will consider moving employees to under-enrolled schools and other system-owned buildings.
Makes sense to me. For instance, 72 of the employees are in psychology services. Shouldn’t they be closer to the students?
We will see if the School Board and Runcie have the backbone to follow through on this.
Or will they take the easy way out and sign a three-year renewal with Stiles, the other option being offered?
We will be watching.
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