Runcie’s Poor Planning Could Doom School Bonds





Voters should call the proposed $800 million school financing plan The Trust Me Bonds.

Because this woefully under-planned and rushed bond issue is built on a lot of faith and few facts.

Superintendent Robert Runcie has said:

  • There will be a board of civic leaders overseeing the spending of the bonds. I’m not making their names public yet, but trust me.
  • We need $800 million, but I’m not saying where the money will be spent. Just trust me.
  • There will be total transparency in how the bond proceeds are spent to prevent inside dealing and wasted money. No details yet, but trust me.
  • We need these bonds approved by voters in five months, but we haven’t planned a campaign yet. No speakers’ bureau. No ad buys. No strategies. No meetings with political leaders. Just trust me.
  • We are going to give something to the charter schools, but we have no idea what they will get. Just trust me.


All these questions should have had answers before any bond issue was made public. This is Politics 101, a lesson Robert Runcie apparently didn’t learn at Harvard.

At his first public Board meeting asking for the bonds, Runcie should have:


1. Presented a power point complete with pictures of leaking roofs, deteriorating classrooms, broken computers, poor wiring and the other maintenance problems in the schools. “This is what we are going to fix,” he should have proclaimed loudly. Instead, trust me.

2. Had speeches at that first meeting from a long line of well-known community leaders to support the need for more money.

3. Had a specific campaign plan on how bonds were going to be sold to the public.


Instead, he said: “Trust me.”

Also troubling is the continued culture of mismanagement at the school system. Despite Runcie’s contention that the school staff can be trusted to handle $800 million in bond money, mistakes keep surfacing that disprove him.


Another Flawed Project


Take the Norcrest Elementary School project.

School auditors late last year found $692,000 in “questionable” payments.

Chief Auditor Pat Reilly wrote, “We are recommending that the District seek reimbursement.”

The school board bureaucrats who oversee the project quickly blamed a private firm, Construction Management Services, for authorizing the payments.

At a meeting in January, Audit Committee member Mary Fertig asked, “CMS recommended that you make these payments?”

Project Manager Dave Archer answered, “Yes.”

Fertig asked School Construction Chief Shelley Meloni the same question. Meloni answered, “Yes.”


The Audit Committee later received a letter from the construction office’s own files. The letter from CMS dated 2010 proved that the firm never approved the “questionable” charges.

“(The) letter proved they (the staff) didn’t tell the truth,” former Audit Committee member Charlotte Greenbarg e-mailed


The staff lied. They ducked their responsibility for an expensive mistake.

The staff lied publicly. This year. On Runcie’s watch.

In most places, it’s the cover up that always gets ‘em in the end. Richard Nixon lost his job.

School bureaucrats hang on no matter how badly they do their jobs.  Archer and Meloni could end up being part of the team that will manage the $800 million. We don’t know. We don’t know who’s going to handle the bond money.

Runcie’s only answer is, “Trust me.”

How’s that for transparency?

Runcie’s mismanagement of the bond issue to date doesn’t elicit confidence that he can administer $800 million in new bond money.

He better start real planning for this bond issue.

Because if it goes down, Runcie will move on to another job far away from Broward. But the School Board, parents and students will remain to live with the flotsam and jetsam from his ill-planning.


41 Responses to “Runcie’s Poor Planning Could Doom School Bonds”

  1. Just Beachy says:

    Something new here? SEEMS CERTAIN THAT no matter who Leads, the system is on its own auto correct return button, decade after decade. Cultures are very difficult to change and in this one, the old values and belief systems are embedded so firmly in the foundation that formed way back when, that we are not really too shocked when we see it continuously staring us once again squarely in the eyes. But, as long as we have our “Buddy”, we can not say we were not informed! Trust me on that one. Thanks, Buddy for your years of dedicated service.

  2. Charlotte Greenbarg says:

    Outstanding, Buddy, thank you! Just Beachy’s right on target.

    This new extravaganza’s setting a really low bar for incompetence and arrogance.

    The Facilities Task Force was created after one of the many Grand Juries to oversee Facilities. But why would the District want a group that’s dedicated and honest? That would defeat the goal of giving money to generous campaign contributors and lobbyists that try to persuade the public to vote for the tax increase.

    I hope enough people pay attention.

  3. excompassionateconservative says:

    You also need an attached bond issue to build the prison for the corruption which will come.

    I am all for education , but the school system needs to be on a “pay as you go” plan where money is spent on capital improvements based on saved money. Parkland does that and we have minimal debt on parks and facilities.

    Upkeep should never result in needing a bond issue to correct.

    Technology is also something which will become outdated after the POs are authorized.

    The issue is reduced state wide funding which pushes locals to raise taxes.

    We also are pretty much over with rapid population growth as Broward is built out. I will vote no and urge eveyone else to as well. Bond issues out of control are pretty much what chased many resident sfrom NY and NJ out of their states to move to Fla and other states.

  4. Former school board insider says:

    You are spot on, Buddy. Runcie was brought in with the goal of getting a bond approved. The thinking was, bring in a new superintendent, tout the new school board members with no history of “corruption” and presto! you’ll get a bond passed.

    However, Runcie overlooked one important item. The culture of dishonesty, CYA’s and finger pointing in the Facilities Dept.

    Putting Shelli Meloni in charge is like the fox guarding the hen house. Nothing has changed, because it is still the same staff, with the same pattern of mis-handling projects then blaming others.

  5. Former PM says:

    As a former project manager that used to work at Facilities & Construction Management I can guarantee you that if this bond is passed the money will be pissed away because nothing has changed. They still have the same incompetent staff working there. How ironic is it that they are the ones who laid off the productive people and now they are asking for more money to be wasted. DO NOT VOTE FOR THIS BOND.

  6. in the know says:

    As per the OCA’s Internal Audit Report, submitted to the Board on December 3, 2013, the OCA published an observation of “Questionable Costs” in the amount of $692,359.97 , the majority of which was dismissed by the Office of the General Counsel as being non defensable as the CM provided evidence to justify entitlement.

    CMS provided a re-evaluation of the Final Cost of Work and found that the Auditors were incorrect with the Report making an assumption that there was an overpayment to the Contractor.

    Keep an eye out for a a retraction from the Auditors.


    That wouldn’t change the fact that the staff members didn’t tell the truth publicly.

  7. Real Deal says:

    Still waiting to see Charlotte Greenbarg’s list of how to fix the school district. Is she just the complainer in chief or does she have some fix it plans based on her observations?

  8. frank says:

    This is the second time just this month that staff lied…and its not even half over.

  9. ghost of torquemada says:

    It seems like “in the know says” has some inside info. Shouldn’t you be managing projects at 3:31pm? Oh wait, URS is doing that for you now. The funniest thing I heard recently is that run-dm-cie wants to rebrand this bunch at facilities. Good luck with that.

  10. Kevin Cregan says:

    Buddy: You hit the proverbial nail on the head. Nothing to add. Maybe you should be Superintendent!

  11. Charlotte Greenbarg says:

    Real Deal, I’ve done that in prior posts. Or is your keyboard stuck?
    What’s on your list?

  12. Charlotte Greenbarg says:

    Sorry, forgot to ask in the know. When did CMS make such a finding? Where can we see it? I don’t expect the OCA to retract findings. Or is your post just throwing something out there to distract us?

  13. ShelleyMayhem says:

    In the know should know that the entire $692.359.97 was indefensible because FCM made mistake after mistake that indeed created a culpability for the SBBC legal team that was indeed legally indefensible!
    In the real world this Project Manager would be fired – CORRECT?

  14. RetiredBCSB says:

    Everyone should have known Runcie was a lightweight when he didn’t clear house from the Notter days. He rearranged some deck chairs, promoted instead of fired half of KCW. His executive flowchart hasn’t changed in years. SSDD

  15. ghost of torquemada says:

    In the Know, Charlotte, I and others want to see that re-evaluation. Does it actually say that the OCA was wrong? provide a link to it. Many of us familiar with facilities know that garbage given to an outside consultant, means garbage delivered back to facilities.

  16. Joseph Miller says:

    Charlotte Greenberg doesn’t even live in Broward anymore. She should go annoy the school board in her new county.

  17. Real Deal says:

    Would you be so kind as to cut and paste, Charlotte as your reference to “Cooper City” was not something I could follow. What is your list of recommended improvements, we simply want to read it. Why be so shy about sharing it?

  18. in the know says:

    Enough said!!!!! It is unfortunate that the GROUP of individuals who consider themselves the moral compass of the Broward County School Board travels on ego trips and use the Public resources to settle personal grievances. So when a staff member from the Audit Department, float half truths and take memos and correspondence out of context to create mayhem, his lies are justified??? Right Give it up move-on do not put our responsibility of providing a quality education to the students in a safe environment at risk because you do not like certain individuals and you have personal scores to settle.

  19. Broward Dem says:

    I was Flabbergasted that they think they can get this bond approved by the November ballot. Glad buddy is pointing it out. School children are not the only ones who need to study and do their homework before they show up school.

  20. Runcie's Legacy says:

    Runcie’s Chicago was left a mess by him. Don’t be fooled.

    “Just months after closing 50 schools, Chicago issues RFP for more charter schools
    District seeks to use charters to address overcrowding problems on the Northwest and Southwest sides.”
    August 13, 2013
    By: Linda Lutton
    (WBEZ/Becky Vevea)
    “Just two and a half months after a historic vote to close 50 schools, Chicago is laying the groundwork to bring more charter schools to the city.
    Without fanfare, the district posted an official “request for proposals” to its website Monday that invites charter schools to apply to open shop in what the school district has identified as priority neighborhoods—large swaths of the Southwest and Northwest sides.”

  21. Charlotte Greenbarg says:

    Real Deal go look at the prior posts on the issue, as I advised before.

    Joseph Miller, or whichever district lackey you are, I’m already on it. 🙂

  22. George Stroker says:

    Simple … Vote No on Bond Issue.

  23. ghost of torquemada says:

    “In the know says” must really be pissed. He used five exclamation points. I guess we struck a nerve. Safe environment? Like the bird poop at Fort Lauderdale HS? Relax, like “T” said; no one gets fired as a result of an audit. Apparently, no gets fired as a result of mismanaging construction projects either.

  24. ShelleyMayhem says:

    LMAO!!!!!……………..Ghost of Torquemada – CLASSIC, “bird poop'” – “T” – “environment”………….LMAO!!!!!

  25. count l f chodkiewicz chudzikiewicz says:

    Yes charlotte greenbarg complains n may or may not in Broward co but she is not wasting public money or lying to the public. Many miami-Dade n palm beach co public officials r crooks but the sheer studity n lack of knowledge here in Broward co is awesome. The school boards record is scary for wasting money n achieving little academically.

  26. in the know says:

    You are right “ghost of torquemada” But You know who I am and my phone numbers and where my desk is, so you can call me or come see me so we can talk about mis mangement. You do not need to hide cowardly behind this Blog as you your cronies make baseless grandstanding statements in this public medium. Lies and misleading statements!!!!!!!!!!!!

  27. Real Deal says:

    Charlotte Greenbarg appears to be a chronic complainer, a grandstander without any true agenda for change. I have read her prior posts. She has no agenda other than to complain about things.

    It’s OK that she complains and most of her topics are worthy ones. But in all her “study” she does not advance a how-to fix it list and in that sense she’s basically a complainer and not a fixer. She can correct that anytime she wants by putting her suggested fixes in a post or even in a guest column to Buddy. He’d be sure to print it if she did. But she won’t do that and the reason why is simple to understand.

    It’s fun to complain. Fixing things requires work and talent.

  28. Charlotte Greenbarg says:

    My list has been printed twice now for anyone to see. I think you’ve read my prior posts selectively, or are simply not telling the truth. Much like the district, probably not a coincidence.

    But I guess you’re just conditioned by the district or the bottom feeders you work for to do what you do.

    What’s on your list?

  29. Rico Petrocelli says:

    To: In The Know. I give No credibility to statements or comments without a signature. If you feel strongly enough about an issue, then Man or Woman up, and sign your name to it….Too many cowards hide behind lies, deceit, mean, nasty, and sometimes vulgar comments.

    Having been attacked like many others here, words do more damage than a physical injury, at least the injury can heal..


    Rico Petrocelli
    Former Councilman
    City of Plantation

  30. Charlotte is the deal says:

    Go get them Charlotte there are many of us listening ! Real deal (aka) the punisher ! Deal with it! It doesn’t matter Charlotte is complaining or coming up with solution her points are valid. If the people who make all the big bucks can’t come up with a solution other than “show me the money ” or “trust me” why would y

  31. Becky Blackwood says:

    My thoughts on some facilities and construction management solutions:

    1. Project Managers should be required to read the District’s construction contract’s general conditions and review the project’s specifications.

    2. Architects and Engineers should be evaluated on the quality of their construction documents and this information should be provided at the time of their interviews for future projects.
    The number of errors and omissions should also be included.

    3. The architectural or engineering firm’s staff assigned to each school project should be required to have a minimal of 8 years experience in school construction.

    4. Professional Liability insurance must continue to be offered for each construction project. Claims must be filed on those errors and omissions identified in the project’s Change Orders.

    5. Quality School Board plan reviewers must be hired and continuing code and standards education be provided in order to eliminate errors and omissions by the Professionals of Record.

    6. Code interpretation procedures by the Building Department must be strictly followed and there should be no political interference by any other party. The final decision is to be made by the Authority Having Jurisdiction of each code and standard. The District should not be paying for outside contractors to sign off code violations to make them just go away.

    7. Staff should not be performing their own evaluations for their supervisor to sign off. Supervisors should be penalized or terminated for not performing this valuable duty.

    8. Staff should not promoted from within to supervisory positions, unless they have experience in the area of promotion and also business experience to be able to analyze their department costs, their employees performance in order to provide accurate information and reduce costs.

    9. Retaining staff because of longevity in tenure rather than accurate performance is undermining the quality of the District’s operations. Staff members who provide false information knowingly and cause excessive financial costs to the District should be held accountable and fired. There must be a clause in the Union contract that will identify the procedure to be followed. Maintaining staff which does not contribute to the financial success to the District is undermining the ability for the District to be successful. Staff that commits these types of errors contribute to the demoralization of those who perform successfully.

    10. Centralizing information on all school facilities and annually updating that information would eliminate the need to hire a 1.75 million outside contractor, save time in preparing the report to the Department of Education.

    11. Centralize HVAC monitoring and fire alarm monitoring.

    12. Lastly, where is the continuing education and training on current construction means and methods, as well as materials?

    The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.

    With all of the administrators in the District – where are their solutions? With the salaries they are receiving, why haven’t they provided solutions for their departments instead of asking you and I, with no other solution but the pen, to solve their problems for them? Surely, by now, we are still seeing the same results with the same individuals who have been on the staff for more than 20 years. Didn’t they read the Grand Jury reports and learn anything from them?

    Where is it written you can receive an annual salary of more than $100,000 and not be held accountable?

    Just a few thoughts to start out with.


    You touched upon one of the major problems in Number 9.

    I would expand Number 9 to say that there is no accountability in the public school system. Administrators cost taxpayers millions of dollars due to mismanagement or are just incompetent and nothing is done. They remain on the payroll.

    When was the last time somebody in administration was fired for failing to do their job?

  32. Chaz Stevens, Tea Party Antagonist says:

    Rico Petrocelli says: words do more damage than a physical injury


    I invite you to spar with me at Strike Boxing Gym. Let me see if I can change your mind.

  33. s only says:

    Yay Buddy! Keep up the good work!!

  34. in the know says:

    I agree with all Becky Blackwood’s comments. Yes there are times we need to clean house but sometimes the focus is on the wrong room. Yes there are individuals in the system that is not held accountable when there are baseless lawsuits caused by those individuals whose objectives do not align with the overall Districts strategic goals. So individuals who are concerned that the School Board would not be good stewards of their $4.17 per month (Bond Issue) cares very little if our students have current technology or if the roofs are leaking. Instead, there is no concern as to who gets hurt while personal objectives are met.

    Currently there is a Law suite filed by a Contractor and potentially another to be filed soon simply because individuals thought their objectives to discredit colleagues superseded that of the District.

    As to the comments of Rico Petrocelli Former Councilman City of Plantation yes “I am in the Know” and if any one wants to talk seriously about solutions; mismanagement and incompetence they know who I am in the know. It is easy for them to find me.
    9. Retaining staff because of longevity in tenure rather than accurate performance is undermining the quality of the District’s operations. Staff members who provide false information knowingly and cause excessive financial costs to the District should be held accountable and fired. There must be a clause in the Union contract that will identify the procedure to be followed. Maintaining staff which does not contribute to the financial success to the District is undermining the ability for the District to be successful. Staff that commits these types of errors contribute to the demoralization of those who perform successfully.

    So I agree like Buddy, that Becky’s (9) is very important. Individuals who have non aligned objectives will reference documents written in 2010 while failing to make available the numerous other document from 2010 through 2014 which then tells the full story.

    To Charlotte Greenberg question as to what the CMS consultant’s letter states I believe you can see a copy of the recommendations from the same source you received the 2010 memo.

  35. Commissioner Angelo Castillo says:

    The School Board in New York City during my years up there was notorious for playing politics with construction dollars. Some suggested that board members only had time to cared about kids after they were done handing out drywall contracts.

    With their schools crumbling in need of renovation, more new schools needing to be built, sandwiched as they were in a trust crisis with their school board, and given the high costs and risks of school construction, the city and state got together and created a School Construction Authority.

    The school board would appropriate the money. They would publish the list of projects that were to be completed in priority order. The SCA would take it from there — they would organize the work, put it out for bid, contract for the work, oversee and ensure completion of the projects. SCA’s job was to bring those projects in up to quality standards, on time and within budget.

    Segregating these functions in an independent way allowed city residents to get past their trust crisis and get the work done that children needed of them to learn.

    They developed an initial $5 billion capital plan that was executed nearly flawlessly and without scandal.

    They had their own Inspector General assigned just to them to ensure the SCA operated squarely to the law and properly in all respects. The SCA had a three-person board of directors — one selected by the School Board, one by the Mayor, and one by the Governor. They named an SCA president who then ran the organization.

    The SCA had in-house architectural review, construction management and administrative staff. They were all top notch and operated on the basis of public bids with the private sector, out in the open with total transparency, and they worked well with the private sector contractors, design build teams, etc.

    The School Board’s main job was prioritizing the projects and appropriating the funds. That was the end of their authority. The SCA took it from there to project completion.

    School Board was forbidden from interfering in who was selected to do the work, how the work was done, etc. All of that was managed independently by the SCA — which essentially operated as a semi-governmental body. By that I mean that they had their own procurement rules, their own contracting rules so they would be faster and more economical than government — they had those private sector attributes. But also the transparency attributes of government so that the public would see what they were doing. It was the right mix and the right solution to the problem. It worked because it was intelligently thought through and organized.

    An arrangement like that one would probably garner a great deal of support in Broward. It would elevate this discussion beyond public trust issues to project identification and reliable use of funds.

    There are senior staff working for the school board of Broward today who are very familiar with this model. The SCA model is no secret, it’s been around for a long time, and it is considered an great and reliable way to implement a capital plan. There’s a whole world of governmental best practices out there. We are wise to learn from the experiences of others and replicate the proven success stories that are already out there to solve problems.



    This is a good suggestion, Angelo. I hope the higher-ups in the KCWright School Board HQ are reading this. They definitely need an Inspector General and an independent board to oversee all the contracts. Want to bet whether they agree to do this?

  36. Charlotte Greenbarg says:

    Becky’s been through the mill of the corruption and intimidation. They will never do what she suggests, nor will they ever accept an IG. They have things the way they want them.

    The last chance to reform the system came and went when Nan Rich persuaded Senate President Gaetz not to put in an oversight committee after the Grand Jury report.

    In 1996 I wrote at the request of the Sun-Sentinel my suggestions for reform of the district. They were the same as Becky’s.

    If people don’t start paying attention to who’s funding the campaigns of the candidates, and start actually voting all the way down the ballot, whether they have kids in the system or not, reform will never happen. This is what I’ve said twice on this blog.

    Until they do start, if you really want reform, contact every legislator in the state, whether or not they represent you, and tell them to put in an oversight committee with an IG. Just as Comm. Castillo details.

  37. Rico Petrocelli says:

    Chaz, always going for the laugh…lol…


  38. telling the truth says:

    most of the electeds in Tallahassee from other counties don’t really like Broward
    they know we make stupid mistakes over and over again, re-electing greedy and corruption susceptible neophytes (Hello Mandy Dawson)till they are term limited
    so no help coming from them

    Just say No and Vote No on the bond and send a clear message we have had enough
    Both Becky Blackwood and Charlotte Greenbarg hit the nail on the head (again and again) but like they said they do not want to change the status quo
    the design professionals ad contractors regardless of project delivery have made fortunes, unquestioned change orders, delays, design screw-ups (should the addition have fire sprinklers, do we need a 4 hr fire wall between existing and addition, etc etc)
    the past electeds condoned this (Hello Beverly wherever you are) as to management, Notter, the dead guys that both used to work at facilities, etc.
    So starve the bureaucracy and eventually there will be fewer dollars to hand out which equals reduced power and influence
    then the $40k a year board gig will only appeal to the most diehard of school activists not power brokers to be

    In case you don’t remember them – and just citing the names that springboards – lori parish, diane wasserman rubin, lois wexler, miriam oliphant
    and sorry if I left anyone out

    Stop The Madness and Vote No on the Bond

  39. Commissioner Angelo Castillo says:


    Another way is to have an elected superintendent and an appointed advisory school board made up of parents selected regionally by PTA’s. Rather than the other way around, where we elect the school board and appoint the superintendent.

    Single point of accountability directly to the voters also works.

    In many though not all ways, Broward has outgrown the management by committee paradigm. Committee management works OK when the scope of the work is small. But it never satisfies when the scope of work is large, there you need an empowered CEO to get things done.

    This isn’t some political statement I’m making it’s a simple fact of organizational evolution. Thing about us is we’re isolated from the rest of the US. We truly are, but when we reach out to connect with the rest of the country, we discover that they have all struggled with and resolved most of the things we face today.

    Intelligence causes us to learn from that experience. Ignorance and arrogance is responsible for not trying.


  40. Charlotte Greenbarg says:

    Angelo, the problems with your suggestions are:

    The PTA is so dependent upon the district for everything it gets; i.e., complete access to the students, teachers, administration and outside entities that support the district to solicit memberships, donations, sponsorships that it can’t be objective in choosing advisory members;

    Advisory school board members are just that, unable to make decisions, but they come with a high cost of administrative support and aren’t cost effective. Moreover, in real life BODs can fire a CEO, while advisory boards can’t, which leads to;

    The nasty fact that Board members are tainted by lobbyists’ and contractors’ donations, and an elected superintendent would have the same problem in corrupt Broward.

    School boards all over the country operate much the same (but not all with the ineptitude and corruption in Broward) because they pay to belong to state and national School Boards’ Associations and learn from one another.

    The only solution that would clean house is state oversight along with an IG.

  41. telling the truth says:

    wish we had a LIKE icon

    Thank you Buddy for the forum and dialogue