School Board Accused Of Ignoring Fire Safety






When the Broward County School Board wanted voters to approve $800 million in new bonds, they said, “Protecting Children’s safety should be a top priority.”

Those exact words were on campaign literature and on their lips…repeatedly… as they promised some of the bond money would go towards improving safety in schools.

Now it is six months since voters approved the bonds and School Board members clearly have changed their tune.

They sat stone faced and silent this week as Don DiPetrillo, the president of the Fire Chiefs Association of Broward County, pleaded with them not to change the way fire safety is handled in schools.

What hypocrites!

School Board members were debating a proposal by Superintendent Robert Runcie that the chiefs say would weaken fire safety in the schools. Schools including those with new construction paid for with the $800 million bond money.

Runcie’s proposal – a new organizational chart – would eliminate the position of the school system’s Director of Safety and Chief Fire Official.  It would give those tasks to others who already have full job descriptions.

DiPetrillo and the chiefs believe their should be one person responsible for only one job: Concentrating on insuring emergency safety in the schools.

That’s the way it has been for years in Broward schools.  Runcie and the Board don’t believe the schools need a safety director now that the bonds have passed.




Chief Donald DiPetrillo



“We have some concerns,” the chief told Board.

Those that appeared to be listening and not staring at their laptops were largely expressionless.

“This is an absolutely essential positions,” he continued. “It doesn’t just deal with fire…it deals with chemical, biological and other types of threats.”

Like potential terrorism, shootings and other mayhem.

“This should be a primary position,” DiPetrillo continued. “…this is not the time or place to devalue a level of safety for our students.”

DiPetrillo said he would be glad to answer any questions.

Nothing. Not a sound. The dais lumps sat silent.

The Board had no questions about the allegations concerning fire safety.  This same Board just minutes later spent almost one hour debating the very vital topic of what date they should appoint a representative to the Florida School Boards Association.

All that was left for the chief to say was: “I’ll leave my card with your staff.”

After DiPetrillo shuffled out like a rejected job applicant,  the Board approved Runcie’s new organization.  There will be another vote June 23 when they may reverse this travesty.

But based on the initial vote this week, the schools will no longer have a safety director in the future.

The Board seemed to be saying:

The bond referendum has already passed.  Who cares what fire chiefs say about safety?



34 Responses to “School Board Accused Of Ignoring Fire Safety”

  1. Slim Pickens says:

    Let’s get real. If the powers that be (not the Broward school board or Runcie, but the real powers that be) had to choose between saving the lives of a few kids and pocketing the big contracts they’re hoping to get from these bonds, is there any doubt what they’d pick?

  2. Ronald C Bell says:

    Did Runcie offer data or any real evidence as to benefits and/or consequences for the need to eliminate this position in our schools other than the cost saving factor? May I offer that this is a cost saving measure which may or may not have any real validity where it affects fire safety for our schools and our students. Take a look at Homeland security and the financial debacle it has created at the federal budget level, just as a point of reference. I’m as dismayed as many with the bait and switch tactics of Robert Runcie. Having said that public discussion should have been engaged in to aid in adding a level of transperancy and engagement by board members. This board as a whole seems to not realize thier accountability to the electorate because of the apparent apathy of said electorate. But I am unwilling to throw the baby out with the bath water as of yet, I’m hoping that this sort of lack of both transparency and engagement will garner for our educational needs persons who will be willing to step up and say no more.


    If you are familiar with the Orwellian Newspeak of the Broward Schools, what they say and what it means are two different things.

  3. Balanced Scales says:

    So lets be real for a minute.
    Who is the “Director of Safety and Chief Fire Official” for Charter Schools USA, Academica, or any other of the for profit charter school companies? Oh wait, they don’t have one. That is how they cut costs and make millions.

  4. Alanna Mersinger says:

    The Safety Department of the School Board of Broward County has been undermanned for years. Now we won’t have to worry about that, since it seems we won’t have any person in charge of safety. This is a wonderful setup for major problems, no real oversight just like, in my opinion, the bond issue.

  5. Ryan says:

    I would like to know Nora Ruperts opinion on this. She is usually a straight shooter, and isn’t full of BS.


    Nora Rupert says she has “concerns” about eliminating the fire safety position. She hopes the vote will be reversed later this month, but unless Runcie buckles, that is unlikely.

  6. Why have a Board? says:

    We have watched this Chicago politician cut good, competent employees out of positions by either changing Org charts or harassing them out, since his arrival. It has been proven over and over that Runcie and his administrative staff have lied to Board members. “School Board Attorney” (those quotes are there because he reports to the Superintendent) continues to advise Board members that their hands are tied. He claims state statutes and no probable cause and has turned this Board into not only a laughing stock, but a waste of time and money! Can someone answer this question…if the Board is NOT allowed to vote NO, why does anything go before the Board for approval? The Board points out the never ending inconsistencies and sometimes even the blatant lies and then, one by one, they vote YES!!! If this Board keeps believing in Carland, Runcie and his staff, there hands will end up tied in prison. All dramatics aside, this Board has not only let down our communities, schools, and employees, it has been a complete disappointment to our children. Why do we have a Board when Robert Runcie has picked this district apart without anyone intervening? Do we elect and pay a Board to be his motorcade? My kids will be long gone before this district recovers from this regime. May as well have Runcies family sitting up on the Dias.

  7. Disgusted Stakeholder says:

    “When the Broward County School Board wanted voters to approve $800 million in new bonds, they said, ‘Protecting Children’s safety should be a top priority.'”
    Well we knew that was a lie when Runcie and Messier claimed that schools needed millions of dollars for single points of entry and safety improvements that had already been installed, completed and signed off on! The Bond passed and schools received letters saying that the funds that were allotted for safety were no longer needed and would be reappropriated. Well isn’t that convenient? Now all of a sudden a new Org chart is created that eliminates the Director of Safety? Even after the president of the Fire Chiefs Association of Broward County, advises and pleads with the Board to rethink such a careless act by Runcie. The same man that claims safety is number one? I can honestly say, I haven’t seen one decision that has been made in the best interest of children. Every decision has been about power and money and the Board has jumped right on board. Yet they’ll want community input during election time, just not now. The Board needs to wise up and give a real evaluation! Base it on his lies, lack of communication with stakeholders and his incompetent hires! GET RID OF ROBERT RUNCIE before the voters get rid of you!

  8. just wondering says:

    Did Jerry Graziose retire? And they don’t want to replace him? Or was this their way of getting rid of him?

    Jerry did an outstanding job as a one man department, overseeing safety including fire safety in the hundreds of schools the district has. To not have someone in this position, especially someone as well qualified and important as Jerry was, is 100% negligent on the part of the School Board.

    But why should they care? They got their 800 million and they don’t have to answer to anyone any more.


    The former safety officer Jerry Graziose has retired.

  9. PandaBear says:

    Runcie has always thought Broward’s voters are total idiotic jerks and proved it way beyond a shadow of a doubt as he excelled at manipulating the masses to believe that he badly needed that dough for the children. Maybe the guy’s on to something…. Your average Joe here gets offended if you point that out, but the fact remains that Broward stands tall and proud of wearing its dunce cap again and again.

  10. Zero Accountability says:

    Since when has this administration cared about having someone qualified on their team? Unfortunately for BOB, you’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with and look at his team. They all meet the same criteria. Corrupt little puppets. No one says no to this Chicago politician. He even has his Board snowed.
    They got their 800 million and they can’t squander it with qualified people watching. You can’t speak up or disagree with the Chicago Mafia without paying a price. Very sad that we all have to sit back and watch it fall apart.

  11. Sam The Sham says:

    I am SHOCKED! Shocked I tell you!

    Big surprise here, Runcie lied to us and the Skool Bored is incompetent.

    If I was a local mayor, I would have my fire dept pull a series of safety inspections on the schools in my town. Anyone care to bet how many safety hazards and unsafe practices would be found?

    Call your local politicians and insist that since the Skool Bored won’t ensure our kids safety, we will. Oh yeah, then fine the living shit out of the schools until they wise up.

  12. tell the tuth says:

    11.@sam the sham
    good idea. those local fire depts are the ones that would have to respond to a fire or emergency event.
    and they make the local municipality pay for the crossing gurds to get kids “SAFELY” across the streets.
    fort lauderdale had to practically double the parking ticket fee to cover the guards at all crosswalks

  13. Chuck Lanza says:

    In addition to the important fire safety issues enumerated in Buddy Nevins’ post, there are other equally important issues relating to the failure to fund the Director of Safety and Chief Fire Official’s position; these include the emergency management function and the hurricane preparedness activities, both also coordinated by the Director. As a former Fire Chief in Broward County, I understand, appreciate and support the positions taken by Chief DiPetrillo and the Broward County Fire Chiefs. Based on my experiences as the Broward County Emergency Manager from 2008 to 2014, I am equally concerned about the District’s ability to provide coordinated and comprehensive emergency management and hurricane preparedness. During my six year tenure with Broward County I worked closely with the former Director of Safety, Jerry Graziose. In addition to the responsibilities he had as a Chief Fire Official, he was also responsible for maintaining readiness to use the schools as general population shelters and special-needs shelters during hurricane threats and potential evacuations. This alone appeared to be a near full-time responsibility for Jerry and his staff, as I know we met at least monthly, more often during Hurricane Season, to make sure their plans were complete and ready to implement at a moments notice. They were responsible for working with every School Principal, the American Red Cross and the Department of Health to ensure readiness. On the Fire and Life Safety Code side, our children’s safety could certainly be compromised by removing this key point of contact and coordination. The Director was responsible for coordinating with the other fire departments and emergency management agencies. Without this person, I am not confident the District will be efficient and successful in fulfilling their county support responsibilities, especially when facing a hurricane and a potential evacuation. I strongly believe the District needs to reassess their position and the Board members must seriously consider changing their votes at the next meeting.


    Thanks for your input, chief.

    Chuck Lanza joined the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue in 1978, working his way up from fire fighter to deputy fire chief and assistant director in charge of emergency medical services, communications and training. He was the director of emergency management and homeland security of the Broward Sheriff’s Office. From 2004 until 2006 when he retired, he was fire chief of the Broward Sheriff’s Office’s Fire Rescue and Emergency Services.

  14. Charlotte Greenbarg says:

    Too bad the folks in Broward didn’t think about what guarantees (none,zero,nada,nothing) the promises came with before they gave them $800 million.

    Municipalities have money for crossing guards from the surcharge on moving violations. That is, if the Legislature hasn’t changed the law that we fought to get passed after Julius Jackson at Miami Park Elem. was killed trying to cross the street to school.

    Yes, it took a dead child to get even $350K out of the Dade County Commission for the schools with the worst traffic problems. That was stop-gap until we could get the surcharge through the Legislature.

    The governments were disgusting then and they’re disgusting now.


    We miss you, Charlotte.

  15. Becky Blackwood says:

    There are fire safety inspectors at the School Board; those who worked under Jerry Graziose before he retired and those licensed in the Building Department. There is no reason why each municipalities fire chiefs cannot be responsible for the public schools in their districts, when needed, with the School Board’s fire inspectors handling day to day activities at the School District. Many times, when I supervised the Building Inspectors, there were fire safety inspectors from the Building Department completing construction inspections during the progress of the project. Mr. Graziose’s fire inspectors did the daily inspections at existing schools, noting violations and placing fire safety requirement updates on their lists to be completed either during a construction project or by the maintenance department. At the time of completion of construction projects, Jerry Graziose’s departments fire safety inspectors performed their final inspections that in most cases had already been identified by the Building Department’s fire safety inspectors.

    Both departments inspectors were required to have the same qualifications and take the same testing and take continuing education. On the Organizational Chart, both departments will answer to the same supervisor. On occasion, Mr. Graziose overstepped his authority as at South Broward High School Construction Project when he and the County Fire Chief designed a 4 hour wall design without the authority to do so. These are required to be addressed by building codes, not fire safety codes. Dr. Till, the Superintendent of Schools, at the time, gave Jerry Graziose and the Broward County Fire Chief the authority to do so and directed the building department inspectors and project architect to refrain from interfering. The proper procedure is to have an “alternative” 4 hour wall designed and approved by ASTM, a building code standard, who test and approves this design. This was never done. The 4 hour wall was required because the contractor and project architect refused to respond to a failed inspection for the omission of the 4 hour wall at the time of the installation of the pilings . Pilings were required for the “muck” soil conditions at the school site.

    I have asked Derek Messier at Facilities Task Force meetings when was the District going to tie-in the fire alarm systems at each of the schools into the automatic dialing systems to the local fire house which is activated when the fire alarm activates. Presently, when the fire alarm activates after hours, fire departments are notified by the neighbors hearing the fire alarm. This condition has existed prior to and since I was employed at the District in 1996.

  16. becky Blackwood says:

    Further clarification – I began employment with Broward Schools in July 1996 and left in January 2010, terminated by the Board against a State of Florida Administrative Judge who said I did nothing wrong and put me back to work at my position in the Building Department. I was assigned to the Purchasing Department in 2005 to shred paper and make coffee by Superintendent of Schools Jim Notter after the Board initially voted to fire me and after investigation from the State of Florida – I did nothing wrong. This was in retaliation to my reporting building code violations and covering up mold and mildew at numerous schools.

  17. Dragnet says:

    Ms. Blackwood, please you’re insulting our intelligence.

    The facts do not support that you “did nothing wrong”

    numerous acts of insubordination

    her effectiveness was severely impaired

  18. Becky Blackwood says:


    Thanks for the link that will lead the reader to nowhere if they don’t have the required information.

    Did you read the Administrative Judge’s ruling? During this case, the legal firm hired by the BTU to represent me also represented the School Board of Broward County in many of their cases with the State of Florida. Allegations were made that I committed insubordination prior to this case but my attorney did not allow me to present evidence to defend myself because she stated it would never be mentioned in the final ruling because it did not fall within the time limit allowed by the Union Contract. Remember, I had already filed a lawsuit against the School Board from 2001-2004 for whistleblowing, discrimination and harassment in which that judge ruled on my behalf there was evidence to support these charges. For whistleblowing in the State of Florida, you have to prove Broward Schools failed to promote me. Even though, I was a finalist for several positions, I was not promoted. Remember, Dr. Frank Till, who testified in this trial, that he really liked me but I was not liked in many in the District (could it be because I was against opening schools with life safety violations or I would not allow mold and mildew in new construction to be covered up?) or that I tried to force contractors to complete the scope of their work in contracts when that prevented opening a school for Fall Openings? Dr. Till failed to tell the court he threatened to fire me because I vacated teachers and their children from the South Broward High School construction project when there was no functioning fire alarm, no functioning sprinklers, the second and third floors were open to the ground. Jerry Graziose, who was advised of this the day before, directed the teachers the next day to take their children and prepare their classrooms for the opening of this classroom building a week later when it wasn’t scheduled to be completed for more than 6 mos. later. I did not know this until I visited the construction project that morning. Was my vacating the school of teachers and their children insubordination? You tell me. If this is what you will accept in construction even if it violates building and safety
    codes, then I was guilty.

    Why would a State of Florida direct the Board to put me back in my job if all of the statements you made were true? You need to read the Grand Jury report of 2011, which identified the same issues which I was fighting against but were testified to by other personnel in the District. These issues were identified for over 20 years in Grand Jury reports but they are still existing today.

    My effectiveness was severely impaired by my administrators and supervisors who believed it was more important to mislead the public,look the other way for their political and paying campaign supporters, than do the legal and right thing to protect the health, safety and welfare of the students, staff and public who put their trust in those in administrative positions. Many of those are still employed by the District, given raises in salaries to well over $100,000 and promotions for their loyalty in breaking the law. Failing to install an Inspector General at the School District by the School Board will allow this corruption to continue.

    It is interesting to note some of the School Board members have trust in the individuals I mention above but ignore advisory groups put in place at the recommendation of the Grand Jury. Grand Juries can only make recommendations to the School Board after a complete investigation. You notice the School Board is ignoring the need to investigate their own with an Inspector General or trust a Grand Jury of laypersons who are not affiliated with the School Board to make recommendations. Doing the same thing over and over again is insanity. If this continues, the State will remove the School Board. By the way, many of the Board members who voted to terminate my employment against the investigation findings and rulings of a State of Florida Administrative Judge are Board members today.

  19. Becky Blackwood says:

    Correction: State of Florida Administrative Judge

    Paragraph 3

  20. Dragnet says:

    I never said that you didn’t uphold the building code, in fact I believe that you and others were fighting for the construction of the schools to be built per the Florida Building Code as the “powers to be” at Facilities didn’t know or care.

    Just agree that the District failed to prove that you committed misconduct in office or gross insubordination within 20 days of the date that discipline was imposed and that is why the Administrative Complaint was dismissed.

    Not that you “did nothing wrong”.

  21. Re-wind says:

    Every article or comment concerning the School Board of Broward County, Ms. Blackwood would go back to same story about how the school board mis treat her.

    Dragnet is correct, there were a number of employees both subordinates and her supervisors who had issues with Ms. Blackwood. I went to the link that Dragnet posted #17 and typed in “Blackwood” in the search section and the entire details of the case was there.

    Becky move on, it is over!!!

  22. Charlotte Greenbarg says:

    Thanks, Buddy. I miss you and my friends, but not the pigs who take it all and give back nothing. No wonder the rest of the state would like Broward to secede.

  23. Chaz Stevens says:

    I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.

    – Twain

  24. Becky Blackwood says:

    It takes more than just shooting the messenger in a blog to change the corruption in Broward County Schools. Having actual knowledge should inform the naïve members of our community. But after reading some of the comments above, it is more important to attack the messenger than to take actual measures to actively do something. I did my part and am continuing to do so wewe.w What can one say about you?w

    By the way Dragnet, where are those subordinates and supervisors today – promoted and increased salaries today. What does that tell you?

    Do all of you think needed a Fire Chief at the School Board now or did you already know about all of the fire safety inspectors already om?

  25. Becky Blackwood says:

    Better to shoot the messenger and ignore grand juries than actively do something about it. Re-wind, where are those supervisors and subordinates now – promoted and making more than $100K and continuing to make hundreds of thousands of dollars in errors paid by you if you are a taxpayer and the rest of the taxpayers in Broward County sacrificing the children, teachers and staff of the District.

  26. count l f chodkiewicz chudzikiewicz says:

    When I was at MIA for my flight to Rome there was a class of Broward White middle class high school students. I heard some of them saying they had D- and Cs. They were saying during our two hour delay how lousy their grades were to each other.

    When one of the teachers going with them walked out of their earshot I asked was the HS paying. I was told the parents.

    The Broward HS parents were sending D- students not to summer school but to Europe! With moronic parents no wonder the Broward
    School System stinks!

  27. Re-wind says:

    Becky Blackwood, it is over!!! Why are you so hung up on the salaries of those who are able to still keep there jobs. Clearly there is some jealousy on your part. Keep focused on the issues being discussed and stop feeling sorry for yourself.

    Talk about something new or a new issue from a different perspective.

  28. Dragnet says:

    Why are my post being censored by the moderator.


    Off topic.

  29. Juliet Hibbs says:

    Re-wind…she used her real name…you hide….are you a part of the criminal leadership of Broward Schools Must be..they all hide and The honest people use their names YOU COWARD!!! use your name! I and many like me have used our names…the corrupt scum…hide behind the anonymity of the net…as spread their lies! Many have experienced this…go ahead…call me crazy…too many see the truth of criminals like YOU and those you protect!

  30. Baloney says:

    So many atrocities with the school board. They are afraid of Runcie, it is so obvious. I am still wondering how the principal at NE did not get fired, because he should be in jail. He gets a promotion! Easy high paying job!

  31. Re-wind says:

    Juliet Hibbs says: Yes I will call you “Crazy”. It matters not what name I use, it would be more appropriate for you to respond to my comments. I guess your real purpose is to use this medium to level personal attacks by name. Your rant and rage is miss guided.

    The following quote is a perfect example of your intentions.

    “The honest people use their names YOU COWARD!!! use your name! I and many like me have used our names…the corrupt scum…hide behind the anonymity of the net…as spread their lies! Many have experienced this…go ahead…call me crazy…too many see the truth of criminals like YOU and those you protect!” –

  32. Juliet Hibbs says:

    Too many of those that are covering up this issues in Broward Schools comment on forums. there statements are designed to shut people up.
    Too often the facts are ignored. the salary thing is a HUGE issue. So is the loss of positions and creation of others…to get around law. What about the abuses of children? Another parent reported that the podium that her child was used to CLEAN at Flanagan high! This happened with the population at DBHS for 2 years. What about administration (assistant principals and up) that have covered up crimes against children and staff?
    The issues in education are often compartmentalized. This is done to redirect from the REAL issue.

    Education is a SERVICE industry and Broward schools is failing to serve they customers. But oh do they make sure they, and their friends are protected.

    How many lives have been ruined by the FALSE investigations being done by SIU? How many girls are sexually violated? How many of those are violated again by administration? This is to cover the numbers
    Like the bullying numbers Runcie wants to take credit for. In his view, if it is not reported, it did not happen. So, parents and students are being bullied NOT to report things on campus. That is why the numbers went from over 1000 to around 90! It is all a game! They problem is….this game is ruining the future generations in Broward. Broward Schools is the largest employer in Broward! How can you stand up? You watched others that did that get HUNTED out of a career! These are just a FEW examples. Like what about the wasted 90k fighting the use of a service dog! Those are just extra legal fees and do not include all time and salaries WASTED fighting the Americans With Disabilities Act. The criminal leadership in Broward schools thinks they are uptouchable. Some assistant principals and principals are still hunted. Many have spoke at the meetings. Both those numbers do not compare with the staff, students, parents and citizens that have been abused, mistreated, violated, again and again for someone’s political gain!


    I like this comment, especially the part I underlined. So true. So true.

  33. Juliet Hibbs says:

    first…oh thank you! I am honored that you like this! I truly thank you for that! just seems too many forget that they are civil servants (emphasis on Servant), It is their job to serve the people. They don’t. So, things get worse and worse!
    I truly believe that together….we are strong!
    So, again, I thank you Buddy!

  34. Dragnet says:

    Dragnet says:
    June 23rd, 2015 at 5:34 pm

    Why are my post being censored by the moderator.


    Off topic.

    But you friends Ms. Blackwood and Ms. Hibbs are on topic???