School Board Chair’s Multi-Million Dollar Construction Project Pushed To Front Of The Line

BY BUDDY NEVINS

 

There are schools all over the county that need new roofs, but the School Board singled out just one for discussion Monday — Cooper City High in Chairwoman Laurie Rich Levinson’s district.

 

Laurie Rich Levinson: Her School Gets Attention First

 

The school was asking for an additional $6 million in repairs over the $27 million allocated in 2010.

The money would go for a deteriorating roof, but added to the request are also additional parking, bathroom and classroom improvements.

Other members complained that other schools had maintenance problems and needs, too.

“Why is this different than Fort Lauderdale High School?” asked member Katie Leach. “I’m not going to sit quietly while my schools are skipped over.”

She was told that Cooper City was being handled as a separate project. It was a safety issue.

However, the Sun-Sentinel on Sunday highlighted numerous schools with maintenance problems.  Northeast High School had portions of its interior roof collapse in a hallway.

“The needs of the students at Northeast High School are no different than what is brought us here,” Leach said.

“I for one have been out on those roofs and can tell you what’s going on,” Levinson argued.

Levinson called Northeast High’s problem “a different discussion.”

Member Donna Korn called the Cooper City roofs “a critical need.” She also criticized the staff for asking for the money without presenting a list of other needy schools so that the Board can set priorities.

And Sueprintendent Robert Runcie called Cooper City’s aging roof a “significant health and safety issue.”

For instance, Runcie said band equipment was being damaged because of the poor conditions in the school.

However, the Cooper City discussion shows that the Board and its staff continues to mishandle construction problems.  Instead of dealing with all the maintenance shortfalls at once, they are picking a school in the chairwoman’s district with very politically active parents to handle first.

They are handling Cooper City first, although this story appeared in the Miami Herald and on TV on Jan. 29:

“Northeast High ceiling crumbles as roof goes unrepaired

By Michael Vasquez
mrvasquez@MiamiHerald.com

“A hallway at Northeast High School where ceiling tiles collapsed on Tuesday. The school has waited years for needed roof repairs, and struggles with ceiling leaks and mold issues.”

The idea that only a school singled out on the agenda was in the chairwoman’s district smacks of the old political favoritism in construction projects that haunted the Board for years. Favoritism is an image that the Board has struggled to shake in preparation for asking the public for more money for local schools.

Board member will discuss the Cooper City renovation again in a regular meeting.

 



39 Responses to “School Board Chair’s Multi-Million Dollar Construction Project Pushed To Front Of The Line”

  1. John Henry says:

    “Why is this different than Fort Lauderdale High School?” asked member Katie Leach. “I’m not going to sit quietly while my schools are skipped over.”

    What planet is this lady living on? Didn’t the School Board recently piss away millions on a new pools at Ft Lauderdale & Northeast????????

    What she meant to say is “Please don’t skip my contractor friends who donate to my campaigns over”

  2. Jerry Frank says:

    Cooper City has problems and so do other schools. Levinson gets her district’s school problems dealt with first. Same ol’ shit.

  3. Floridan says:

    This is a bit confusing. It is my understanding that the S.B. chair is primarily a presiding officer and is one among equals on the board. So where does she get the clout to have Cooper City H.S. given unwarranted preference?

    It might also be noted that even in a random selection of a high school, Levinson would have the best odds of it being in her district as she has more high schools in her district than does any other school board member (and twice as many as several).

    Finally, you suspect favortism but fail to mention who, specifically, is providing the favor.

    FROM BUDDY:

    Favoritism is being given the chair by the superintendent and the staff. Why else pick this project before dealing with the highly-publicized problems at Northeast High?

    The chair helps set the agenda, has the ear of the superintendent and has political allies in her district who are pushing this.

  4. BCDevelopment says:

    This may be a reach for a story…sounds like the CC school is in dire need of repairs (yes there may be other school facilities in the same boat)…but before we say this “smacks of the old political favoritism in construction projects” we should let it play out….for all we know, the School Bd may have done a comprehensive evaluation of all BC schools and then put a matrix together objectively ranking which schools are in the worst shape & it was determined that CC high was the no.1 priority…. HA! Yeah, thats probably what happened!!!

    FROM BUDDY:

    They didn’t present a priority list yet. Other School Board members complained about that. Northeast High has had similar problems for year, but doesn’t have a chairwoman to represent it.

  5. Nan Ain't That Rich says:

    Why is Laurie Levinson getting preferential treatment? Ask mommy Nan Rich whose running for Florida Governor. Lots of butt smooching

  6. just one vote says:

    Not to worry folks. between the A/E 9thats architects and engineers) and the contractors (thats the lucky big time connected general contractors) the “scope creep| will double along with the budget (from $33 million dollars to around $47 million dollars)
    thats how we do it at sbbc regardless of department heads fired/resigned in last few months

  7. Weenie says:

    Cooper City is filled with white middle class while the other schools have black kids. That is all I need to say

  8. Northeast HIgh Parent says:

    Unfair

  9. sidelines says:

    Nan Rich will very likely not be elected governor of Florida. Spend some time in the other 60 counties north of Lake Okeechobee and you will understand why. Along with all the others from down here that pine away for the job.

  10. Becky Blackwood says:

    Cooper City High School has not enjoyed the major replacements of some of the other high schools in Broward County, even if it is as old as they are,i.e., McArthur, South Broward, Fort Lauderdale (not only swimming pools but science classroom buildings, new cafeteria, new administration), Dillard, Blanche Ely, Pompano Beach High School, Deerfield Beach High.

    I recommended years ago, when I supervised inspectors, that a Roofing Department be put in place to handle projects such as these to prevent further damage to the interiors of school buildings and their furniture, fixtures and equipment, while major projects were being considered for design and construction. The District Maintenance Roofing Department is not equipped to handle roofing replacements or major repairs because they have not been trained in the current roofing requirements of the Florida Building Code and many are still using the same roofing techniques from more than 30 years ago. A roofing department first and foremost would require a “Qualified” Director who has hands on roofing experience and understands the roofing requirements and details required by the current FBC as well as the ability to hire employees who are equally as qualified. Millions of dollars have been spent to replace those high schools mentioned above. It’s just that many people have a short term memory loss.

  11. Notocorruption says:

    This kind of political manuevering, upsmanship or gaming the system, whatever you wish to call it, is justification alone to return the Board elections to all at-large elections for the nine seats. There should be equal resources for every student.

  12. Earth to Becky says:

    Cooper City High School just had a $24 million phase replacement. Try to keep up.
    They should outsource the entire facilities department.

  13. Jorge says:

    Sounds like advanced roofing is about to get a bunch of work

  14. just one vote says:

    @becky
    millions of dollars were squandered after hurr Wilma on roof repairs, replacements, with contracts to ‘roofers’ not licensed in FL to do the work. like NO LICENSES. you were not there and not responsible but many that were still are – the rest retired, deceased or both.
    SBBC will never change M.O., never get their act together, never cease to squander money. did I make the point yet? years ago a “Consultant” connected to the head that eventually departed to SAn Diego was paid MILLIONS OF DOLLARS to just do an INVENTORY of all SBBC proeprties. millions of dollars for spreadsheets. they were incomplete, wrong or otherwise unusable (about 12-14 years ago if I recall). Whether right wrong or incomplete someone could have corrected them and completed them (maybe even just staff doing a building/property a month) so in 2013 the list might be complete. no such luck, no inventory ofage, condition, completed repairs, planned repairs,etc., etc. You get the picture. by design to continue to be incomplete and lacking. It’ll never change. Decision by committeee – the SBBC members, more facilities committees, more audit committees, no ONE person running the show, knowledgeable, or even trying.
    So get ready tax payers for a November 2014 ballot referendum to give these incompentents more millions to squander. Whether runcie, notter, till, or the dozens that preceeded these loosers.

  15. zuck it and fahkit says:

    screw all these bastard representives. agree with “Weenie” when she said above that: “Cooper City is filled with white middle class while the other schools have black kids.”

    i live in CC and i know the hood there very well. THERE IS NOTHING BUT upper middle class folks that suck sphincter to their elected officials so that their kids can get the best education around. same ol’ america… some shait never changes. u know what these reps need? they need to live in the UNFAIR school districts where there is nothing but black kids and latinos that attend beat up schools. THEN, they will understand. Money grubbing bastards!

  16. Becky Blackwood says:

    FYI, I was there 12-14 years ago when the Associate Superintendent and Head of Facilities (under investigation by the Grand Jury who later departed) ordered each and every project manager to prepare the 5 year plan for each school zone they were assigned to. Once those project managers prepared those lists of deficiencies in each of those schools, they were given to upper management to determine what would and wouldn’t be done. The project managers were threated by that same Associate Superintendent to be fired if they did not complete this assignment by May 1st (start up date January of the same year).
    Upper management made the decision about what was to be constructed or remodeled at each school – who, I don’t know. I worked as a project manager (along with other duties assigned to me) between 1996-1999 when this was ordered. I worked 60-80 hours a week including my normal assignments to complete this job. That is the main reason for the creation of the TSP union in 2001.

    In the past, the 5 year plan was prepared by an outside contractor. After the project managers did the 5 year plan, an outside contractor prepared the next 5 year plan when the student population boomed. I believe it was in 2003 (with student population decreasing), the District submitted to the Department of Education the same 5 year plan that was previously submitted 5 years prior which resulted in 22,000 empty seats of construction. This was while Jim Notter was either running Facilities or was the Superintendent of Schools.

    As to the phased replacement at Cooper City, $24 million buys classroom buildings, not complete replacement. Dillard High School’s full replacement costs more then $100 million dollars. The full replacement was broken up into different projects to keep any backlash from the public. Their auditorium which was less than 20 years old was unusable because it was infested with mold and mildew and the 4″slab allowed wicking of the ground level water into the auditorium which caused mold and mildew.

    New high schools during my tenure costs between 65 million to 90 million dollars depending on the amenities (athletic fields,etc.) Someone do a public information requests on these other high school replacements and find out what the true costs of these replacements. If you think $24 million will do the job, you are totally wrong.

    There are many issues that need to be addressed in Facilities – getting an leader who is qualified would be a great step, not someone with a degree in aeronautical engineering or naval studies or prison construction to run the department nor allowing educational staff or individuals with qualified licenses to run the department who have little to no experience in construction. It needs to be someone with a registered structural engineer or architect with previous background in educational facilities and construction. The poor management at the Facilities Department for years which never actually evaluated their staff, rather let the staff fill out their own evaluations and sign off resulted in the least qualified individuals remaining the longest (through the union bumping contract). The policy is the project managers do not participate in reviewing the design documents during their preparation and many are not qualified to do so. Many do not understand code nor do they chose to become educated in code. There is no cohesive relationship between the Facilities Department and the Building Department and improving skills and education as well as truly evaluating staff and releasing those who are underperforming is a lost art. Rather the supervisor who attempts to do so can be attacked by upper management (in the previous administration)with false statements, innuendos and removal from their position. I was never proven to have done anything wrong by a State of Florida Administrative judge but the Board chose to terminate my contract for poor evaluations and reprimands as stated by the present head of the Florida Bar. There were no poor evaluations or reprimands but the contracted Board attorney received additional funds by the Board to appeal the State of Florida Administrative Judge’s ruling without success. This costs the taxpapers (and I am one) in Broward Country $299,000 for which I later received a settlement for my pay for six months (to my Drop date) and benefits.

    By the way, the Executive Director of Contracts (including those fraudulent Construction Management at Risks contracts with no risk and contingency fees of hundreds of thousands of dollars), never had any experience in writing and issuing billions of dollars of contracts prior to getting his MBA and being appointed to that position. Contracts affected every project and still does.

  17. Becky Blackwood says:

    To Just One Vote:

    Many of them are still there.

  18. Chaz Stevens, Genius says:

    Becky Blackwood, graduate of the Angello Castillo School of Long Winded Commenting

  19. just one vote says:

    Like I wrote-
    “SBBC will never change M.O., never get their act together, never cease to squander money. did I make the point yet?”

    nothing is going to change.
    Let it go after we all rant (Thank you Buddy!), and lets move on to the next big issue we are getting screwed on……..

  20. Notocorruption says:

    Ms. Blackwood always tells it like it is! She is a terrific lady with profound knowledge and tremendous integrity.

  21. Dear Chaz says:

    You sir have the comment of the day.

  22. yell it like it is says:

    Perhaps, but no licenses which is why she could not stand up to SBBC. With that payout she could have gone to engineering school and put some initials after her name. Otherwise she ‘appears’ as just another ex-/disgruntled employee, whether she was right or not.
    No licenses, no credibility.

  23. tell it like it is says:

    Perhaps she did and has profound knowledge but no initials after that name = no credibility. If I had that 6 figure payout from bcs I would have gone to engineer school to put some initials after the name.
    Without any, she ‘appears’ to be no more than another ex-/disgruntled employee of bcs whether she was right or not.

  24. Charles King says:

    Behold THE DISTRICT in all its glory. Where are the quotes from our bold leader Superintendent Runcie? Empty suits like him don’t say anything unless they have too. It seems like School Board Member Katie Leach is trying to begin to point out that Western wants are trumping Eastern needs and decay. All she has to do now is have the courage to blow the whistle on THE DISTRICT that they are running a de facto segregated school system, pure and simple with separate and unequal standards for building maintenance, academic achievement, spending per student and of course racial diversity. When the school board is creating boundaries for schools that are 95% any race without taking corrective action, the board has clearly been playing politics rather than doing their job. The best part below is that there is a quote from an individual claiming to be the Chief Financial Officer of THE DISTRICT, saying in regards to the capital needs of the next 5 years, “Next coming year, you’re not going to have enough money.” That rich, a District Chief Financial Officer, next you’re going to tell me THE DISTRICT has an annual budget!

    Call me crazy but it is my belief that the days of an unreformed and broken, segregated school system coming back to the eastern property taxpayers who fund the current system but are unable to use it, are over. Let me be the first advise you that if you can’t keep the rain out of neglected and under enrolled minority isolated eastern throw away schools, maybe you should just shut them down and let charter schools do your job for you. Either that or you could take some money out of the water polo team budgets out in Parkland and Weston to pay to at least keep the kids that are being warehoused dry! Time for Runcie to go, and until the eastern and at-large school board members blow the whistle on the true nature of THE DISTRICT, whoever challenges them next election deserves your vote.

  25. Becky Blackwood says:

    To Chaz Stevens:

    I am only long winded because the issue is far more complex than stated in 2 sentences. The construction program at Broward Schools is much more complicated than the bloggers above understand. I only gave you a short synopsis of the 60,000 documents that were required to show the corruption in the School District. I believe in the truth, not the perception.

  26. Chaz Stevens, Genius says:

    @Becky Blackwood

    I wanted to write you a short note, but didn’t have the time, so I wrote you a long letter instead.

    - Mark Twain

  27. Chaz Stevens, Genius says:

    PS Vernacular.

    BrowardBeat is a blog. Those who post articles on BB are bloggers.

    Those who comment on the articles aren’t bloggers, they’re commenters.

  28. Mickey Dumberly says:

    I just want to say that I am glad Katie Leach is standing up for the east side schools.

    Mickey Dumberly

  29. Becky Blackwood says:

    To Yell It Like It Is,

    It is always interesting that I am required to defend myself when I spent much of my time and efforts defending the children, teachers and staff of Broward County Schools by providing documentation and standing up to its corruption.

    First, I have a Bachelors Degree of Design with Honors and a Masters Degree in Building Construction from the University of Florida’s College of Architecture. I have State of Florida Certified (By Exam and Statewide) Licenses as a Building Contractor, a Standard Inspector and a Building Official. I presently teach construction management in the bachelors program at one of our local universities. Need I say more?

    Rather than attacking me, read what I wrote.

    By the way I received a settlement of $48,000 and change. I didn’t sue anyone. The $48,000 was my salary and benefits for the remainder of my 6 months to my DROP end date.

    I was offered a settlement in 2004 for $600,000 when I and 2 other inspectors sued the District for ignoring failed inspections, harassment and discrimination. I refused to accept that because I believed it was more important to protect the children of Broward County than to walk away and allow the corruption to continue. That costs me over $30,000 in legal fees. By the way Dr. Frank Till lied on the stand and I did not win that suit. Afterwards, the District came after me for legal fees for $87,000. Marilyn Battista’s, a lawyer employee of the School Board, portion of those legal fees was $40,000 plus her salary from the School Board.

    I had to file bankruptcy to prevent them from garnishing my wages and my losing my home because I would be unable to pay my mortgage.

    With this type of retaliation from the District and grand jury reports that vindicate what I have been saying since 1997, why am I being the person being attacked?

    Many people said I was stupid for not taking the $600,000 and walking away, leaving the corruption as it was. Instead, I believed in doing the right thing trying in exposing the corruption. I guess that is a lost art.

  30. Becky Blackwood says:

    And yes, with the bankruptcy, I paid the School District over $13,000.

  31. yell it like it is says:

    who said in any post here that anyone sued anyone?
    who is ‘attacking’ who, and who is ‘attacking Becky Blackwood’ in these posts?
    this is a blog, about select schools getting in the front of the line for work we can’t afford either because there is no money or not enough money, and yet the work will proceed because the chair of the board has theschool in her district.
    the apathy, ignorance or disinterest of the taxpayers and voters perpetuate the way the sbbc and bcs are run, nothing changes in spite of at least 2 grand jury reports in last 20 yrs
    and even sadder news is that you have licenses that failed to give you any credibility in bcs eyes.
    guess the only licenses that mattered were bar licenses for all the attorneys involved. Buddy will never run out of future topics to post about re: bcs and sbbc

  32. Charles King says:

    Runcie and the current school board need to go. They are all Judices to the eastern areas of the district and total phonies to boot.

  33. Guy in the White Hood says:

    Hey Charlie – Hope to see you at our next meeting. Don’t forget to pick up your sheets from the cleaner. Thanks for trying to purify our race, I mean schools.

  34. Becky Blackwood says:

    To Yell It Like It Is-

    In your comment above Number 22 you accused me of no licenses, so no credibility. I certainly had credibility with the FBI and FDLE but you are right, not the Broward County State Attorneys office, i.e. John Countryman and his successor who is now investigating police misconduct in Broward County.

    Actually there have been 3 grand jury reports in the last 20 years. I was a witness in all 3.

  35. Sidelines says:

    Ms Becky Blackwood I read and re-read all these comments here and no one accused you of anything and heck you aren’t even mentioned in Buddy’s write-up. I don’t know you, and licenses you have or don’t have, but if tenacious enough to participate in 3 grand jury investigations (and still nothing seems to change at BCS except the names of the highly paid), maybe you want to consider law school and a law license.
    As to the rest of us suckers that just contribute taxes, looks like its business as usual in the BCS offices.

  36. Becky Blackwood says:

    To Sidelines,

    There has to be more than a handful of people who believe in obeying the law and doing the right thing in order to get rid of corruption in BC and BCS. The 3 grand juries were run by our State Attorney’s office who took down the information from all witnesses include administrators. In fact, Dr.Till testified in my first trial, he met with the state attorney weekly to discuss “management” issues that might have come up in anyone’s testimony. If that doesn’t make you suspicious, nothing will. In all 3 grand juries, the same recommendations from different corrupt incidents were made by laypersons. When follow-ups were requested by two grand juries, the School Board responders lied that they were complying with the grand juries recommendations, when it was just business as usual. I was told by the State Attorney’s office that grand juries can only recommend changes but they cannot recommend arrests or enforce any of their recommendations. That was up to the State Attorney’s office. Yet, no one was ever arrested by the State Attorney’s office in the School District for corruption. No one in the State Attorney’s office investigated to see if the grand juries recommendations were actually being complied with.

    Nor did the State of Florida Attorney General’s office, the Inspector General’s office, the Department of Business and Professional Regulations, the Department of Education’s office do any official investigations during this time after information and documentation was sent to them requesting investigations.

    No one got arrested at the School Board until the FBI and the FDLE got involved with information provided by that handful of individuals mentioned above. That is why Beverly Gallagher was sentenced to prison, Stephanie Kraft is still scheduled to go to court and several other high county officials were sent to jail and some are still facing charges.

    The members of the School Board are elected by the public. The public does not understand the separation of teachers in schools from the administration which is where the corruption occurs. Many of the School Board members are teachers or citizens who are not familiar with the inner workings of the administration and that is how the corruption occurs. Everyday staff is not allowed to speak (without consequences, reprimands, retributions or actual firing if they are found out)to the School Board members. The District administration runs it departments like the 1950′s for years.

    I ran for School Board using mostly my own funds and I can tell you individuals who can make a difference do not have the political connections or enought of their own funds in order to win a race. In most cases, they are busy making a living. My opponent raised $56,000 + in her campaign and many of her contributions were from the health insurance company and other companies that do business with the school board and yes, she was a former teacher. Other campaigns raised over $100,000 for a job that pays $38,000. Look at the campaign contributions under the Supervisor of Elections office and it will tell you where the contributions came from.

    There has been no accountability for the School Board or their employees for years. People lie in depositions, inquiries, and in court without retribution.

    I know Mary Fertig attemped to put a policy in place to punish individuals who lie and cause unwarranted consequences to others but I do not think that was approved by the Board and if it has, I have not seen anyone punished for making false claims.

    As for Runcie, he is from out of state. If 3 grand juries in more than 20 years couldn’t straighten this District out, how do you expect an outsider to do it in a year?

    I am sorry I am so long winded but it is only in an effort to possibly provide facts from an insider.

    All of the high schools mentioned above by me are considered on the EAST side, consequences of the lawsuit brought by Concerned Citizens in the l990′s.

    Where was the public when I and other inspectors were fighting against sending students, staff and teachers into buildings with mold and mildew which caused major illnesses and auto immune diseases?

    Where was the public when I and other inspectors were fighting against opening South Broward High School with life safety code violations and we were overriden by upper administration and our safety director?

    The statements that I considered accusations were I received a six figure settlement, which was a lie. The reason I mentioned I did not sue is that would have resulted in a six figure settlement which I did not elect to do.

    If the public continues to elect the same type of individuals who are not experienced in construction(which is where the major corruption occurs)and who do not understand the convoluted functioning of the administration, then nothing will change.

  37. loss for words says:

    she obviously has to have the last word so I am giving it to her

    too funny and lol

  38. christine says:

    Becky,

    Sometimes less is more.

  39. no way says:

    channel 10 bob norman tonight says BCS doesn’t have $5MILLION FOR COOPER CITY SCHOOL ROOF
    so big time connected contractor and roofer (hopefully with state license) gets $4.7 million in the pocket
    Hello? Denis herrmann are you thereand when will the fraud stop?

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