Schools Need More Money, But Board Has To First Rebuild Trust

 

BY BUDDY NEVINS

 

 

The Broward public schools are broke.

This isn’t hyperbole.  This is fact.

To plug part of the serious shortfall in money for maintenance and capital improvements, Superintendent Robert Runcie hopes the public will approve next year a huge bond issue — $600 million has been mentioned.

But at the same time Runcie wants more money, his staff’s mismanagement continues to cost us.

This week a media report detailed how staff delays and mistakes resulted in losing a $100,000 federal solar energy grant.

Is that any way to convince a skeptical public that the school system will spend an additional $600 million wisely?

More on the grant later.

First, the problem.

 

Having Trouble Maintaining Property

 

The school system is now struggling to maintain roughly 48 million square feet of facilities.  More than 12 million square feet of that space is over 30 years old.

“The public has already paid for this,” Runcie told Browardbeat.com. “We need to maintain it.”

While maintenance costs have increased over the years, the money for it has shrunk.

Blame the Florida Legislature a lot.  And the School Board a little.

The money for maintenance from Tallahassee has gone from $387 million in 2007-2008 to $194 million in the current budget year. During this period the Legislature shifted some capital money into the operating expenses.

The School Board could have used more operating expenses for maintenance.  They choose not to do so and it wouldn’t have closed the gap anyway.

“We had to put some $2 billion in capital projects on hold,” Runcie says.

Runcie has a long list of improvements that the school system cannot afford. They include such items as:

  •  Athletic and music equipment to replace items that are worn out.  “We haven’t bought band equipment in five years,” Runcie says.
  • New computers and other high-tech enhancements.  “We have to have technology that we can integrate into our instructional process,” he says.
  • Repairing roofs. The system has $10 million to spend this year and need $60 million to fix deficient roofs.
  • New buses.
  • Renovating schools and offices to comply with the American with Disabilities Act. Past School Boards are at fault because when the system was flush with cash, members did little to comply with the ADA, which was passed in 1990.
  • Increasing the security of schools and buying more security cameras.
  • Improving indoor air quality.

 

Winning Public Trust

 

Before Runcie arrived, a statewide Grand Jury filleted the school system for waste and mismanagement in its construction projects.

Runcie has tried to solve the problem. For instance, he privatized future construction management.

More needs to be done. A dizzying array of blunders continues.

Just one foul-up was outlined in the Miami Herald this week in an article by Michael Vasquez.

The school system and the county government obtained in 2010 a $100,000 grant for solar energy at a Miramar middle school.

“Broward’s school district has repeatedly botched the project, according to county documents and those involved in the effort,” according to Vasquez.

Foot-dragging and errors by the staff, most notably the school system’s lawyers, resulted in having to turn down the grant, Vasquez wrote.

The Herald story is here.

Throwing away this $100,000 from Washington was uncovered because a public vote of the School Board was required to cancel the grant request.

How many other snafus are there that the public never hears about?  How many millions continue to be wasted?

Runcie and the School Board can get all the so-called community leaders and high-priced political consultants they want  to push this bond issue.

One rock-hard political truth still remains: Unless the public is convinced that waste and mismagement of tax dollars has ended, nothing will get passed.

Runcie and the Board have a long way to go before they can ask us with a straight face to pay higher taxes for new bonds.

That’s unfortunate. Because there is a real need in our schools for more money.

 



29 Responses to “Schools Need More Money, But Board Has To First Rebuild Trust”

  1. Ralph Tolstow says:

    What is Runcie and The School Board smoking? No thinking voter will give them more money to hand to their lobbyist friends and use for defective construction.

  2. Frank says:

    How can you blame the legislature a lot, when the school board squandered millions and millions that was given to them on construction waste and fraud. How about the land they bought for some $25m and then discovered they couldn’t build on it!

  3. Rico Petrocelli says:

    And it starts. I’ve said this over and over. The cities need an increase, The Hospital District needs an increase, Water Management needs one, County Commission needs more money, State needs money, Federal needs more, and the School Board.

    The individual increase may not be the “Camel Straw” but cumulative they are hurting seniors on fixed income, and those week to week households that are now in a bind, that non-profits can’t help anymore.

    Add fuel costs, and food cost increases, and you have your “Perfect Storm”

    $600 million more? I think Not, until significant changes are made, to assure the Broward residents we are not going to be in this situation again, in the near future.

    They all start with a balanced budget every year, like in Plantation, now we are $5 million in the bucket, WHY?

    If you can’t be trusted with the yearly budget, why would I give you $600 million to be a burden, paid back for X amount of years?

    Ch Ch Ch Changes……

    Rico Petrocelli
    Former Councilman
    City of Plantation

  4. Charlotte Greenbarg says:

    It’ll take longer than a year to get the public’s trust. We need to see major changes in all areas, not only Facilities.

    We’re still trying to figure out why Fort Lauderdale High took years to settle and how much the outside counsel was paid. Same for Ashbritt, and more.

    Sup’t. Runcie inherited most, not all of it, but that’s the cross he bears. Patience is the watchword. Along with accountability and results.

  5. Anonymous Outsider says:

    How much money are they wasting because for years they never came up with a plan to meet the state’s class size requirements?

    Now the plan (as outlined by their requests for changes in the teacher contract) is to manipulate school schedules without a vote at the local level (from school personnel) and assign middle and high school teachers an extra class to teach. Meaning, teachers still have the same number of students overall, just less instructional time with the students, and less time to grade papers and plan effective lessons.

    So their big cost saving measure is manipulate their class size numbers at the expense of students, to avoid the expense of state fines for not meeting class size requirements. Great plan…

  6. john smith says:

    runcie is garbage. broward hires someone with little educational backround. masters degree? broward got chicago trash.

  7. Nick Sakhnovsky says:

    Not only the Legislature has “shifted some capital money into the operating expenses.” Broward Schools has to the tune of millions — for years. And not “a little”: a lot. Why? According to a previous deputy superintendent, in public: to save jobs. It has also been a shell game to avoid raising taxes covering operating expenses to honest levels.

    At the same time, due to charters, tens of thousands of students are no longer going to school-board operated schools while operating and maintenance expenses rise. An honest look must be taken at what infrastructure needs the district truly has — and more importantly, what infrastructure is no longer justified. Only then can a bond issue be supporteded, based on actual needs, after the tough calls have been made.

    FROM BUDDY:

    RE: Your second paragraph. Why does the system, which has more than 30,000 fewer students going to traditional public schools, need the same number of schools, infrastructure and staff as before?

  8. Commissioner Angelo Castillo says:

    Friends,

    The Broward County School District has become too large to manage by committee. We need an elected superintendent with managerial authority to run the system assisted an appointed school board chosen by parents from within regional PTA’s to offer the superintendent advice.

    At present we have an appointed superintendent and an elected school board.

    That may have worked when we were the 100th largest school board in the US. But once you become the 5th largest it no longer works. You can’t run a $4 billion dollar organization with the same structure as a condo association.

    Broward has outgrown our systems of governmental management. Committees work in small organizations but to run something big you need a CEO.

    Corporate boards are by no means an appropriate comparison to huge school boards. It is a child’s analogy to even suggest that.

    With corporations they ability of the players alone is so incredibly beyond what we have as to make the comparison silly. It’s like saying that Mercury and Earth are both planets, true but try living in both places and see how that works out in practice.

    No organization with a $4 billion budget can be reliably run without a strongly empowered CEO who is accountable and can make decisions.

    It can’t be some appointed person who lives from Tuesday to Tuesday, here today gone tomorrow.

    It has to be somebody put there with a mandate and an expectation, somebody empowered and able to manage. Somebody with authority commensurate with the responsibility given them. Yet willing to take advice from others who offer it. We don’t have that at the school board.

    One elected superintendent accountable to the people every 4 years for educational results may seem odd to some. It is not odd. Not in Florida and certainly not in the US. Rather it is the route to success we have never known.

    Ask yourself this question, how satisfied are you with the current scenario? With a board, you have many elections to hope for change and even then you’re often left unhappy. Plus you lose a lot of time. With an elected CEO, you get to choose direction every 4 years. They perform or they are gone.

    Do that Broward and we will have better outcomes, greater trust, greater consensus on direction and more reliability on performance.

    Do it not and we remain captured in our current “Peter Pan” dynamic — each of us knowing we should evolve yet unwilling to do it.

    Broward County lacks capable, empowered, full-time elected leaders to take us where we need to go. We know it’s true and we refuse to change. We refuse to evolve, we prefer complaining to problem solving. I guess we haven’t suffered enough yet.

    So we act if we worked for government, and not the other way around. As if government owned us and not the other way around. Not government of the people, but people of the government.

    I love this community. I love everything about it. There is no younger more dynamic, more promising county anywhere in the US. None with greater assets or more promise than Broward County. When the hell are we going to grow up?

    We’ve been so blinded by our self-imposed, past limitations that we don’t see the greatness right in front of our own eyes. We must evolve, we must grow up as a community, we must progress, we are stuck in the mud of yesterday instead of releasing ourselves to embrace the promise of tomorrow.

    It’s like we’re still asleep, stuck in one of those senseless, nowhere dreams. Peter Pan has that effect on people.

    Case in point — so, we have schools falling down and in need of repair — the very schools that teach our children for crying out loud. OK, so some money is needed to fix them. Problem. We don’t want to chip in. Why? We don’t trust the school board to spend it right. So what happens? The schools that teach our children continue to crumble around them.

    And that’s an OK result? Have we lost our frigging minds? What kind of acceptable outcome is that?

    As neighbors I implore you.

    Confront this dynamic please, why do we feel these ways? What can we do to change that dynamic, and knowing those answers what the hell stops us from demanding that change?

    Don’t want to make this overly dramatic, but our future depends on those answers. The future will be what we the citizens decide to do today. We can demand better because we’re worth it. Or settle for less because that’s our self value. I think you’re worth much more than you’re getting. Much, much more.

    Peace.

    Angelo

    FROM BUDDY:

    Good point for debate.

  9. Peace Out says:

    Angelo,
    With all due respect, you haven’t been able to manage a couple schools in your capacity without forcing teachers to take pay cuts to balance the budget.

  10. Curious says:

    Angelo

    Does the CEO you propose actually have to show up to work or can they work from home?

  11. mark this day down says:

    I agree with Angelo..well the three paragraphs I read…

  12. PandaBear says:

    Angelo’s logic is not illogical, it’s just that he yet hasn’t realized that politics and education don’t mix. Never did. Never will. It’s like asking oil and water not to separate. He’s not completely wrong…it just needs a bit of tweaking. To begin with: get rid of half the departments……Innovative Programs, Portfolio Services, School Transcripts, Talent Development, Charter Schools…and the list goes on. Go on their website yourself and look at the names of these departments you’ll be ROTFLYAO. Then there are the ones that overlap such as accreditation and certification…clearly if you can do one, you can do the other! Some of the directors of these so-called depts are making over 100K a year and with multiple assistants. What do they do all day long? Arithmetic tells us that if we knock off 10 of them and join depts. how much can we save?? And that is just one example. There are hundreds more. Ask me and I’ll tell you…

  13. Sam The Sham says:

    @Mark,
    “I agree with Angelo..well the three paragraphs I read…”

    That is pretty damn funny. Angelo makes a good point that deserves fleshing out, but as usual, he drones on and on.

  14. Becky Blackwood says:

    One of the issues the School Board was not able to get rid of this year was the union “bumping” clause which meant those employees who had been here the longest replaced other employees who were specifically trained and qualified for their positions. Meanwhile, these individuals had to be trained (learning curve) to perform the duties of the replaced individuals. Many of those were Facilities personnel who were assimilated within the District while those who were performing their duties were laid off.

    Mr. Castillo, thank you for your remarks but Broward County is the 6th largest district in the U. S. Miami Dade County is the 4th. Miami Dade County has an elected board and they have been turning their District around after at least 5 years of an Inspector General and a Superintendent who came from the ranks. He has been able to turn his District around and it appears he has an aggresssive approach to securing grants and working partnerships with universities and the community. I always wondered why the superintendents at Miami Dade, Broward and Palm Beach couldn’t work together to share their solutions and solve more of their problems.

    There has been a mindset in the District way before Mr. Runcie showed up and the Superintendents before him were educators. At one point, a recommendation was made to Dr. Till to divide the power at the District between the Superintendent for educational decisions and a CEO for the financial one. Ken Clink, previously from FP&L was hired and he lasted less than a year.

    I was a PTA president before and I know the hard work that they do but I am not certain they would have anymore knowledge about the financial running of a District than the School Board does.

    Many of our employees in District Maintenance are paid union wages, too, so that drives up costs.

    It is interesting to me when I asked the Facilities staff at the last Facilities Task Force meeting had an ADA survey been done in the last 10 years and they said no. I also ask how many of the 156 schools that were identified in 1999 with mold and mildew had been completed, I was told there was still 6 schools to be done.

    Computer data that is shared with all administrative departments is lacking.

    Human Resources does not have technical individuals who can determine if people are qualified for the technical positions they apply for, nor has their resume research resulted in qualified hirees in the technical departments.

    Lastly, whatever happened to the revised evaluations for technical staff vs. those used to evaluate teachers? They were the same for many years. There is a mindset, too, in the District that once you have a job they can’t get rid of you nor do some managers want to go to the trouble to document poorly performing employees.

    You can’t expect Runcie to correct every problem this District in two years when the problems and mindset have existed for more than 20 years.

  15. Commissioner Angelo Castillo says:

    Dear Peace,

    Why do you think teacher salary reductions had to occur at Pines Charter? More precisely, why did teachers vote to take pay cuts at Pines Charter Schools? Why are parents of Pines Charter students being asked to donate $1,000 per student? What other public school asks parents for a $1,000 donation per student on top of the taxes they pay? How is it that despite having all 5,600 seats filled at Pines Charter, the system still has 11,000 on the admissions waiting list? While traditional public schools in the area have a surplus of seats? How despite all this does Pines Charter graduates 98% of all students sending 96% to four year colleges including some of the finest in the nation? Please share your insight on these questions. I can speak out on education issues because I know those answers. I have credibility built on experience and performance to back what I say. Not saying I’m always right, but am saying that perhaps you should review my comments more carefully.

    Dear Curious,

    If you’re referring to Bob Norman’s proven false, intentionally malicious, politically motivated, self-indulgent lies about my character and work habits, allow this to settle any doubt you may have. His news station took that false video off his blog page. They did it on their own. The story was so stupid I didn’t even both calling them. Their decision speaks for itself. At the office, in my community and private life, people laugh with me about it. They know me and have for years. A known person can’t be redefined by lies no matter how desperate a reporter may be to make their quota.

    Dear Mark,

    You know what I find? We live today in a scratch and sniff, sound bitten world when it comes to public policy which explains much about our current predicament. I hope we’ve not lost our desire or curiosity to delve seriously into complex public policy issues. I hope we realize that sound bites don’t cut it when talking when talking about something as important as governing. I respect my neighbors enough to explain myself fully assuming that the folks who visit this site have legitimate interest in public policy. That’s what I’ll continue to do and no news reporter with a political agenda is going to keep me from being outspoken.

    Best wishes,

    Angelo

    FROM BUDDY:

    Angelo is right about the waiting list. Pines schools are not alone. Many charters have waiting lists because the neighborhood public schools are not delivering what they want for their children.

  16. City Activist Robert Walsh says:

    W/ over six(6)billion, and I repeat over six billion in lottery sales where is the money? Mr.Runcie should petion the Governor on down to see the books. There should be no debate here. I mean where again is all this money that these lottery games generate. The whole reason to bring the lottery into this state(1988) was to support our school etc, but yet Mr.runcie states he doesn’t have enough funds($) to address all these issues.

  17. West Davie Resident says:

    Angelo, I thought successful politicians know how to give 7 second soundbites and write one paragraph written responses. You could have simply said you believe the Superintendent should be accountable to voters through elections. I disagree because we voters elect Board Members to make that hire and fire decision. Plus CEOs are not elected by stockholders – they too are appointed by corporate Board members.

    As for the overall topic of Runcie and the School Board needing more money, I vote no.

  18. Commissioner Angelo Castillo says:

    Robert Walsh:

    I went on line and found the 2011 annual audit of the Florida lottery which you can access with the link below. They had their best year ever. Essentially, the lottery brought in $4 billion in 2011 revenues. After paying out $2.4 billion in prizes, and after subtracting all other expenses, the agency had net income of $1.2 billion which it transferred to the Florida EETF (Educational Enhancement Trust Fund). http://www.myflorida.com/audgen/pages/pdf_files/2012-083.pdf

    I was unable to find any audit on line for the EETF.

    However, Mike Mayo of the Sun Sentinel wrote a piece on that subject some time ago. I will link you there also.
    http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2011-05-11/news/fl-lottery-money-mayocol-b051211-20110511_1_education-money-broward-schools-gambling-money

    Moral of the story: Ask not what happens to the Florida Lottery money. We know that answer.

    Instead, ask what happens to the EETF money. That’s where you shall find the answer you seek. Mayo begins does a fair job exploring that question.

    Beyond that, one billion in annual lottery money isn’t nearly enough to meet all of Florida’s capital needs. Not even close. Buddy’s article above says Broward alone needs $600 million. So $1.2 billion for the entire state — assuming all of it was used for capital expenses which it is not — falls waaay short of the mark.

    Too often absent in the discussion about education is accounting that informs residents of the actual revenues coming into the educational system and how those go out in the form of expenses.

    Peace.

    Angelo

  19. Ha Ha Ha says:

    http://www.palmbeachschools.org/budget/Documents/LotteryFY09.pdf

    Until July 1, 2005, Florida Statutes mandated that at least 39% of lottery proceeds be deposited in the Educational Enhancement Trust Fund. The Department of the Lottery now has discretion as to the amount to transfer. The Bright Futures Scholarship Program is always funded first. The remaining funds are distributed among public school districts, community colleges and the Division of Colleges and Universities.

    During the early years of the Florida Lottery, appropriations for public schools averaged around 70%. Since 1998, however, the operating allocation for public schools has rarely surpassed 40%. New programs such as Classrooms First and Bright Futures Scholarships have reduced the portion allocated for Public Schools. In fact, public schools were allocated just 23% of the funding generated by the Florida Lottery in FY 2008-2009.”

  20. @Robert Walsh, says:

    Local school district don’t receive one penny in lottery money. Almost all of it goes to Bright Future Scholorships.

  21. Ha Ha Ha says:

    Interesting article here destroys Rick Scott’s claim that the education system needs to produce more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) graduates:

    http://spectrum.ieee.org/at-work/education/the-stem-crisis-is-a-myth

  22. Andrew Ladanowski says:

    Buddy Nick and you hit two key issues. Why does the system, which has more than 30,000 fewer students going to traditional public schools, need the same number of schools, infrastructure and staff as before? The school system needs to down size and liquidate staff and infrastructure it doe not need.

  23. DollarsdowntheDrain says:

    $100K of grant dollars lost through incompetence and lawyer fees is bad enough. What about Runcie costing taxpayers $40 million as a result of his ego driven mismanagment & disregard of labor contracts? He screwed the high school teachers, but we now have to pay for his stupidity. He thinks Chicago Chicanery works here, it did not. That little mistake is going to cost us all for a long time. Is that what they taught him at Harvaaard?
    Fire Him Now! And a Big NO on his hat out for more $$. Forget that! So sorry for the contractors licking their chops and paying their lobbyists… not this time folks! Fool me once.. not twice.

  24. Commissioner Angelo Castillo says:

    Dear West:

    You may have me confused with somebody else. I don’t conform to “what other people do.” I do what naturally comes from wanting to serve and respecting the work I do.

    The day that approach doesn’t suit the people I serve, I’m happy to step aside and allow somebody else to try. So far they like the way I do business. Including many in West Davie who tell me so.

    Let’s get back on track here.

    Who thinks that an elected Superintendent would not be as good at running our school system than the current Board structure? And why?

    And if we mostly agree that it would be better, then what possible reason would there be for any delay in making that change happen?

    Angelo

  25. Tits McGee says:

    @Angelo Castillo please stop, you are embarrassing yourself. You live off the public teat. You left a mess at Broward House, Pembroke Pines and now BSO. Your race against Barbara Sharief was a joke. You love to bloviate. We get it. You boob

  26. Plain Language says:

    Tits: Adults are speaking here please go inside and watch cartoons.

  27. City Activist Robert walsh says:

    Thats terrible that these schools don’t get a dime of this lottery cut. Me thinks one of you must delegate up in Tallahassee. What do you say County Comm.Lois Wexler? W/ your expierence once on the school bd. your the perfect choice. Bring some of that lottery money to Broward..

  28. Bill Davidson says:

    Runcie is following the same path as Jim Notter did. He is busy pacifying Patty Good, Nora Rupert and Donna Korn.

    Whatever these three are telling him to do he is doing it. Broward voters already realized this and they will not approve any bond. Board members should learn from Gallagher and Kraft.

    Runcie should learn from Jim Notter.

  29. Charlotte Greenbarg says:

    Angelo, the video’s back on Bob’s blog on Ch. 10 with even more.

    Bill, 3 board members don’t make a majority and can’t decide anything.

    When the lottery was approved, then-Rep. Ron Silver and then and now Senator Gwen Margolis came to us and admitted that whatever went to education was taken out by the Legislature for other purposes. Just another scam in the Florida swamp.

    They later bonded lottery money and are using it for Bright Futures. Which needs an overhaul because the GPA requirements are too low.

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