School Board’s Latest Delusion: We’re Doing A Great Job





The Broward County School Board meeting on Tuesday turned into a pep rally as members patted themselves on the back.

Again and again.

They said in sickening repetition how they are doing a great job.  How they have turned the district around from the bad ‘ol days of misspending, mismanagement and corruption.

We are doing such a great job, members said, that we deserve more of your money.

They then unanimously approved a referendum asking voters’ in November for permission to sell $800 million in bonds.

There is no doubt that the school system — shortchanged for years by the Republican Legislature — needs more money.

But Board members would only have to look down their own agenda to see that their comments about dramatic improvements in the school system management are wildly optimistic.

On the agenda was renovation of Fort Lauderdale High. It first began in 2007. It is still under construction.

During less time, the entire widening of Interstate 595 was completed.

Get the idea?

The problem is not the need. The problem is the school system has not proven they can manage $800 million in new construction.

The only three speakers from the public at Tuesday’s meeting quickly burst the Board’s bubble.

The first speaker criticized the Board for lying to the minority community in the past. He said minorities got short changed from previous bonds despite promises.

The second speaker attacked the Board for planning the bonds in secret and not asking the public for comment until they had made up their minds.

The third warned the Board that members continue to have a “questionable reputation” and they needed to move the debate on the bonds to where it hasn’t been before – to the community.

One community Superintendent Robert Runcie pledged to reach out to is charter schools. More than 30,000 attend charters and the parents of these students could swing an election.

Runcie promised to “try” to give some of the $800 million to help charter schools, but warned that state law may prevent this.

Runcie also promised transparency and openness throughout the campaign to sell voters on the bonds. Then he quickly quirked around questions about a poll done last week.

The superintendent denied the school system “as an institution” had conducted the poll which contained questions on the bond issue before it was approved.

He suggested the Children Services Council might have done it.

Well, Runcie should know whether the council did it. He is on the Board of the CSC along with Board member Robin Bartleman.

Regardless, Runcie knew about the poll, according to two school insiders. And he never told the Board on Tuesday that he didn’t. He just talked around the question.

So much for transparency.

Runcie appears to be under a delusion that the downtown Fort Lauderdale business community can win this bond referendum for him.

Since he is relatively new to the community, let me enlighten him about the Downtown Boys’ track record:

  • Penny sales tax for school referendum. Failed.
  • Penny sales tax for transportation referendum. Failed.
  • Strong mayor for Broward County referendum. Failed.

The Downtown Boys – mostly Republican in a Democratic county – have no understanding of how to get anything passed. They don’t understand any of Broward except downtown Fort Lauderdale. Many would probably get vertigo if they drove west of Dixie Highway!

In addition to the business crowd, Runcie needs to reach out to the rest of Broward – parents, activists, seniors and singles. Because that’s where the votes are, not on Las Olas Boulevard.


13 Responses to “School Board’s Latest Delusion: We’re Doing A Great Job”

  1. Just Beachy says:

    Buddy, Our SBBC and the leaders become entrenched quite quickly after each new addition, whether a board seat, super or administrative position newly filled. The
    system eats it’s own. Those who buy the seats pull the strings. And yet they often forget….The community holds the voting Power. As usual, your reference to vertigo is right on the button.

  2. Ha Ha Ha says:

    The transportation referendum, with the possible exception of its Light Rail line item, was a very good idea too. Broward has many difficult problems today that would have been fixed a long time ago if this transportation referendum had passed.

  3. Alice McGill says:

    Just a few thoughts: For years the pressing need for Broward schools was growth. Immigrants from the islands and new residents from northern states flooded the schools with new students. It was tough to keep up with the need for buildings and personnel to staff the schools. Some new residences being built in Broward are designed to attract young professionals who like to eat out,have fun, and not mow the yard. Not much family (children) in that picture. Other residences being built in Broward are focusing on wealthy retirees from northern states. Not many children there. Some residences being purchased in Broward are paid for by people who live in other countries most of the time. Not many children there. Charter schools are skimming off many of the students who perform at the 50 percentile or above on standardized tests. Not many students for the standard public schools there.
    Bottom line: It is time to regroup and consolidate the school buildings that exist. Perhaps some high schools could house vocational programs for students who are not “college material”. Perhaps some middle schools could house both elementary and middle school students.
    The old box is dead. It is time to think outside the box and do what is needed for students at this transitional time for families in Broward County.
    $800 million dollars is an outrageous amount of money to be wasted on an old paradigm.

  4. tell it like it is says:

    Broward is not Dade by long shot. There is still corruption and board members trying to influence staff in 2014. This board still hasn’t learned.

  5. Pembroke Pines Vice Mayor Jay Schwartz says:

    I would welcome the entire school board to have a town hall meeting in Pembroke Pines next month to speak directly with the residents about their proposal. An informed voter always makes the best decision.

  6. Commissioner Angelo Castillo says:


    There is no law preventing a district school board from providing any form of capital funding to any public school, including charter schools, except perhaps in the case of privately leased facilities.

    Certainly where a charter school building is owned by a unit of government, pledged to future school use, and built reasonably to school construction standards, the use of capital dollars including bond funds is legally permissible.

    No lawyer familiar with these laws will disagree with that statement so I will wait to see if a fair plan emerges. In the meanwhile, I’m against the bond issue for failure to provide fairness in distribution.

    There will be a very long list of charter and other parents, most of them super voters at least in my city, who are sick and tired of being discriminated against and feel the same way I do.


  7. Well Said.... says:

    Anyone that concludes that borrowing north of a billion dollars (incl. interest) for what are essentially e-text books has got to be out of their minds.

    This type of instructional material should be purchsed through a normal/annual budget process.

    My goodness, the computer equipment will be outdated before the County purchasing staff can put together an RFP (can you just imagine a 60 year old purchasing manager trying to develop the specifications for such technical purchases? The vendors will salivate and simply eat the School Board alive).

    Anyone that pays property taxes should be keen to vote no for such a short-sighted bond issue.

    Bonds are meant to fund very long term capital expenses….not day-to-day expenses….next the crazy school board will want to float bonds for lunches served at the schools.

  8. Independent says:

    Doesn’t make any difference what is put forward. As long as the School Board is in charge of spending the money I wouldn’t vote for it.

    Their track record has been consistently wasting the money on their friends, unnecessary property and lawsuits. I see nothing that I believe changes that.

  9. Robbing Peter to Pay Paul says:

    @Well Said #7 above.

    Agreed 100% — Well Said!

    A 30 year loan to pay for technology that will be out of date in 10 years (generously) is insane.

    You borrow money in this manner for infrastructure, not operating expenses.

    Just like the current school board is using IMPACT FEES from new development which are intended to off-set the impact of new students coming into the district — to pay the DEBT SERVICE on existing schools where few if any of those new students will be attending.

  10. Becky Blackwood says:

    Actually, the replacement for Fort Lauderdale High began in 2002 when I was a Senior Supervisor in the Building Department. I agree there remains inequality in school remodeling, renovations and replacements but much of it has to do with the amount of money available. Dillard High School costs the most to replace at the time – well over $110 million constructed in separate projects. I was the project manager for the Football field, Driver’s Ed range, the baseball field, the tennis courts and the GYM building in 1996. Fort Lauderdale High School has been done in separate projects to defray the full costs of the replacements and additions through the years.

    I believe a separate roofing department is also necessary to respond to roofing replacements immediately instead of waiting for a construction project causing extreme damage to the existing building, its’ furniture, fixtures and equipment. That does not even address the mold and mildew issue which endangers the health, safety and welfare of the inhabitants of the building. The poor training and organization of the District Maintenance Roofing Department does not qualify them for this department. It needs to be newly created with separate plan review and permits and separate roofing contractors to perform roofing only.

    I believe the public would be more trusting if an Inspector General was assigned to the School Board prior to the Bond being issued
    to prevent the mismanagement, malfeasance and corruption that has existed for nearly 30 years. There has to be proof of accountability and transparency that still does not exist. How can anyone make a $500,000 error and still have a job to make another error? I returned $3.3 million to the District by representing my inspectors failed inspections in lawsuits. I was terminated and so are the inspectors who were doing their jobs, replaced by many of the project managers who were involved in disregarding the failed inspections.

    Efforts need to be made to hire knowledgeable and experienced staff in construction, not only to supervise the work but to select the candidates for these positions.


    That’s a great idea: Have the School Board fall under the scrutiny of the Inspector General.

    When this was suggested few years ago, it was killed by state Sen. Nan Rich and her daughter, School Board member Laurie Rich Levinson.

  11. Ghost of McLovin says:

    No way I would ever vote to raise taxes – for schools, roads, prisons, parks, libraries, anything. This is a major mistake, and the snakes are already circling the wagons to get their cut. VOTE NO TO AN INCREASE TO YOUR TAX BILL.

  12. Transparency and Accountability says:

    The School Board and all its territories and provinces should have been signed up with the independent Broward Inspector General when the guy first rode into town three years ago. That was a golden opportunity to begin to rebuild the public’s trust. But, in a tragic display of the true nature of these self-serving politicians, this crucial step towards accountability was enthusiastically killed, demonstrating that the Superintendent and his School Board have no intention of venturing into the unfamiliar territory above-board.

  13. Charlotte Greenbarg says:

    Buddy, well-remembered re: IG that was killed. But not surprising considering the Rich-Levinson connection with uber-lobbyists who represent companies that never have to pay what they owe the district/public. As in Ashbritt.