School Closings Being Discussed



In 2010, voters elected a School Board that promised change. We will soon see how much change the public will accept.

Layoffs and school closings have been discussed to cut into the Broward system’s multi-million dollar deficit.

The tipoff that administrators are considering school closings was a plan discussed at the Board last week to comprehensively review all schools for a number of criteria including “school demand and enrollment.”

Schools that don’t meet the administration’s standards on a number of benchmarks including “enrollment, capacity, re-enrollment rate (and) enrollment change” will surely be placed on a hit list.

All options are open.

Couched in bureaucratic language, administrators’ suggest some schools might be “reconfigured” or “different school choices” might be offered in one building.  Also suggested are leasing school space and, as close as Superintendent Robert Runcie and his crew will get to admitting their eventual plan: “consolidation.

Although Broward school administrators’ opaque language is similar to Pravda in the Soviet days (So much for the new Board’s much-trumpeted transparency), the meaning is hard to hide if you read between the lines.

Administrators are setting up the Board for permission to close schools.

This may not be a bad thing. Underutilized schools could be used to help communities and taxpayers.

For instance, an elementary school might be combined with a middle school in the same community. The elementary school building could be converted into a health clinic or even office space for the system.

Roughly $10 million are now spent annual to lease office space for school staff.  Some of that could be saved if staffers moved into little-used schools. The schools could even be left open and half the space used for offices.

There are some interesting possibilities.

But even a discussion which includes closing schools is forcing the Board to walk into a political buzzsaw.

 Something Has To Be Done

The Broward school system puts the deficit at $50 million, but the number has shifted repeatedly. (One thing that hasn’t changed is finding numbers from the school system that can be believed!) Regardless, there is no doubt that the system is in a multi-million dollar hole.

The money isn’t flowing from Tallahassee like it did.  And each time a student opts out of the regular schools for a charter, the system loses thousands of dollars in revenue.

More than 30,000 students have left regular schools for charters in recent years and at least 5,000 are expected to head for the doors.  That’s tens of millions of dollars going to charters, not the public school bureaucracy.

Those 30,000 students are the equivalent of 30 elementary schools, according to Superintendent Robert Runcie.

But not one school has been closed.

How long can that situation continue?

The school system has lost to charters more than 10 percent of its customers. A business in the same situation would close factories, cut back on production and layoff employees.

The Archdiocese closed Catholic schools for falling enrollment.

Why should government be different?

Yes, nothing will cause more protests from parents than closing neighborhood schools.

Layoffs rock the boat.  Forcing little Johnny and Jane to attend a new school, usually farther away, could end up sinking political careers and support for the Board.

Electeds never want to lose the support of a single voter.  And they also don’t want to lose support when they are (1) trying to rehabilitate their image and are (2) considering new taxes.

Here is the tricky part:

Many of the less-crowded schools are in heavily-minority eastern Broward.

Will Runcie and the Board leave upscale Weston and Parkland untouched, while forcing poorer minority students to leave their neighborhoods for school? The liberal Democrats on the Board don’t want to be seen as balancing the budget on the back of only blacks.

Another question is timing:

The school system has discussed new taxes.

Listing to the downtown business community as always, The Board and Runcie believe they need new taxes to survive. They will have an uphill struggle to convince almost anyone else to support taxes.  They haven’t earned the trust….yet!

Will they formally propose the tax before closing schools or threaten to close schools unless the new tax is passed?

Board members pledge that nothing will be done until after extensive discussions with any communities involved. Members will face lots of questions and no easy answers.

This is for sure: There will be change. But it may not be the change voters thought they were getting.


20 Responses to “School Closings Being Discussed”

  1. KCWright Employee says:

    Single member districts was the worst thing that ever happened to the black community. Now a minority of Board members have to care about the black community. Blacks will get screwed.

  2. Real Deal says:

    They should adopt a fair school closure criteria. Here is an example.

    First, close every single trailer unit in the county. If that doesn’t free up enough seats then, second, target the schools where the students aren’t which happens to be in the eastern portion of the county.

    Third, of those identify the buildings in worst physical shape. Fourth, among those identify the ones hardest to get to for students. Among those target those for closure and demolition with land that will sell for redevelopment better than the other parcels.

    Those are the schools to close and the money gotten from the sale of those sites should be used to fix up the worst of our many poorly maintained school buildings.

    Notice how my critera has nothing to do with “parent input” which is secret shorthand at the school district for keeping lilly white kids from attending school with minority kids.

  3. taxpayer says:

    c’mon….the whole argument and basis for district reps on SBBC, BCC and city comm. (NOT AT LARGE) was for reps that looked out for special interests of “The District”. You can’t have it both ways. The 2010 census confirms the reduced (minority) white population in Broward. not being racist here – it is what it is unless people lied on the census forms we were constantly reminded to fill out. Now the truth be told. Instead of lowering the bar to the lowest common denominator in the public schools so no child is left behind, why are we not demanding excellence and higher academic goals from all? well you know the answer to that one. keep it up. at this rate, consolidating schools, closing schools, etc. will be the least of our worries because no one will want to send their smart, motivated or ‘interested in learning’ child to a public school anywhere in broward. and to comment from kc wright above, more than black students will be getting screwed.

  4. ??? says:

    The district has in fact been quietly laying off employees every year for the past several years. The Consumer Price Index keeps surging – and the Sun-Sentinel is reporting today that “wages increased an average of four percent in Broward” over the past year – but district employees have gone without raises for the past several years, which by itself amounts to a de facto 10% pay cut. And on top of that, district employees have been furloughed (further reducing their income) and then forced to take an additional 3% de facto pay cut (“Florida Retirement System Contribution”).

  5. LifesABeach says:

    By your biased reasoning, Mr. Runcie is only looking out for black kids. If you and your racist attitude really work at KCW, YOU are part of the problem at the Crystal Palace.

  6. Truth says:

    The board has limited ability to raise taxes under the FEFP. I believe they are at their discressionary max (or darn close) for operating costs.

    FROM BUDDY: They are talking about a new tax, like the penny sales tax for education that was turned down by voters years ago.

  7. Citizen says:

    no broward voters will approve any sales tax increase. remember the courthouse sales tax increase that was voted down? or fll trying to build a new police station. as dumb as we may appear we are not that stupid.

  8. Plain Language says:

    The fact that this district spent hundreds of millions building new schools just a few years ago that they no longer need because we now have too many seats is EVIDENCE that the entire system is corrupt.

    That school district building needs an enema to purge itself of all the corruption and ineptitude that lies deep within it. I was told by a visitor to the 10th floor that while waiting to see someone a meeting was held in the superintendent’s conference room at which 20 high paid administrators met for over one hour to discuss an extra curricular event in a park that one assistant principal should have been able to plan on her own.

    That is where our money is going. They “create” administrative jobs for teachers that do not want to teach and take away the authority of principals and school staff from running their own operations.

    This is why there isn’t enough money to pay teachers properly. Everybody knows this is true but nobody dares to do anything about it. The smartest thing Runcie could do is sell the building he’s in and buy a smaller, cheaper one to replace it. Then he’d have not enough space for all those administrators and be forced to cut them. With the sales proceeds he could fix up a few of the schools his corrupt and inept maintenance staff allowed to crumble while misusing money elsewhere.

    The smartest thing Tallahasee could do is allow local changes to school boards. We need an elected superintendent and an appointes school board to advise him. Not the other way around. This small town shit no longer works here. Same for the county and the larger cities. Elected executives get work done while large scale committees are predictably inefficient, corrupt and ineffective.

  9. Citizen says:

    Plain Language has said it well!

  10. Former School Board Employee says:

    This is a prime example of why the Broward School Board needs to be completely At-Large. In these difficult economic times, the Board needs to be free of “political blackmail” in order to be able to make tough decisions. This was recommended in the last Grand Jury Report. It also suggested going to a five-person Board. Not a bad idea.

    If we consolidate schools that are in the best physical condition, (unfortunately those are mostly the ones in the west), we would be able to consolidate teachers and subjects, maybe even being able to offer more elective courses. Combining elementary and middle schools requires modifications to the schools to accommodate the different requirements, and will cost money, however.

    Are we, as parents and taxpayers, willing to bite the bullet, allow our Board Members to make the difficult decisions of consolidating/closing schools, probably laying off of more personnel (including teachers), having our kids bussed to other schools or kids not in our district bussed in?

    The Board needs to be color blind, be able to provide the same services and programs in all schools and to stop their special interests. This can only happen in an At-Large District.

  11. d says:

    Maybe the answer is to break the school board into 3 or 4 smaller school boards and drive the educational decisions back into the local communities.

    While that idea dies on the vine, an independent commission/group needs to be convened to make objective recommendations on school closures– unrelated to the contractors and politicians. These recommendations may not be followed and like base closures, the process can be railroaded by politics. But the changing student numbers are too obvious, the economics of maintaining and leasing are real, and the republicans will make vouchers, charters and “choice” (pro-choice in education, whatever that means) an issue this year. If the school board wants to protect public education, radical change needs to be considered.


    Cutting large school districts into smaller, more management units has been proposed numerous times in the Legislature. Debbie Wasserman Schultz sponsored such legislation when she was in Tallahassee.

    There are a lot of complications.

    One is what do you do with the system’s debt? Which one of the new entities owes the money and will dividing the system violate agreements with bond holders?

    Another complication is balancing the number of minorities in each district. It would be hard to justify creating a lily-white district in west Broward and a heavily black one in east Broward.

    There would be lots of other problems created by unwinding the Broward school district.

    The county school systems were created when Florida was largely rural and counties were the only sizable government in many parts of the state. That situation has changed and much of Florida is urbanized. Dismantling the big school systems should be studied again to see if it is feasible.

  12. New Teacher's Mom says:

    Instead of closing schools — which hurts a community — let’s get rid of all those “extra buildings” on school campuses from when we acted like we were going to meet the classroom size amendment. That may change if a school in under enrolled. Also bring some of the students from out west east! Simple — it is their turn to get on a bus. I would really love to see the BCSB not fear for their re election and redraw bounderies for the whole county– way passed time for this!

  13. Floridan says:

    “There are a lot of complications”

    You would also need to create districts that were fairly equal in per student tax base.

    The easiest dividing line, all else being equal, would be at I-595/I-75.

  14. Real Deal says:

    Not necessary to create smaller districts in order to escape ineptitude.

    The way to excape ineptitude is to get rid of the inept.

    I agree with plain language. The superintendent should be elected like they are in other Florida counties. School board should be appointed to give superintendent advice by the PTA’s. Empower an executive to run our schools, single point of accountability answerable directly to the people and watch that system improve.

  15. Becky Blackwood says:

    A recent School Board pie chart showed the District spends 10 million plus a year for leased facilities. Empty classroom sizes are sufficient to provide office space for staff. Maintenance personnel can construct partitions to provide private offices. Elementary school classrooms have restrooms within the classrooms. Certainly there is enough parking. Maintenance costs need to be addressed. I made recommendations when I worked for the District about using colored concrete masonry blocks for the exterior finishes of schools to eliminate stucco finishes and painting maintenance for the lifetime of the school. Also, some of the schools have been designed with brick veneers to cut down maintenance costs.

    When Cypress Bay High School was being designed, I and others in my department recommended they add another floor to the school to accommodate additional students or use the space for offices until it was needed by students. It was very apparent in 1997-1998 when we were opening 5-6 elementary schools in Weston, they would be needing middle and high schools to accommodate the students within 8 years.

    Planning has not been properly addressed.

    The Building Department was placed in the Rock Island Administrative complex in 2002 but very few other departments have been relocated to empty schools. Using computer technology, meetings can be held without everyone being in one place.

    School Board’s need to be composed of a balance of educators with business personnel. We have not had anyone, nor do I believe have we ever had anyone, with construction knowledge on the Board. This has made it possible for facilities personnel to find creative ways to distribute unwarranted construction funds to
    companies that should have never been approved by the Board. Limiting the Chief Auditor’s construction personnel was another method to limit oversight of the construction projects.

    Electing a superintendent has its’ inherent problems, too, as demonstrated by the District’s past philosophy of paying back campaign contributors.

    Examine why parents are taking their children to charter schools and the methods they are using that would work in the public schools.

    If we have teachers who are successful in teaching, can’t we use technology to train other teachers in those methods if the conditions are similar?

    Teachers do need a raise. If we were all honest with ourselves, teachers do not get enough support from our community. I believe the community would be open to adding a half cent to our sales tax to provide teachers with a raise and ONLY IF THAT INCREASE WAS DESIGNATED FOR TEACHERS RAISES ONLY.

    Teachers are responsible for the quality of our futures and the students who will serve us. Let’s not abandon them. Teachers do not want poor performing teachers in the classrooms, either. They can determine what the criteria should be to evaluate poor teachers.

    Accountability cannot just rest with the teachers but should extend to the technical support personnel. Until you have accountability, efforts will not be made to perform as public servants protecting the public’s interest but instead bowing to the pressures of outside interests. Politics need to be removed from our schools. Revamping the evaluation process for the technical support professionals and administrators, using integrity, will convey the seriousness of accountability.

    Solutions will not be easy but they must start somewhere.

  16. Panda Bear says:

    As long as there’s politics involved in education, things will continue to turn out the way they’ve always turned out. Education and politics don’t mix! Never did. Never will.

  17. The (almost all) New Regime says:

    “Paying for a building that somebody else at the end of the day is going to own is a really hard pill for me to swallow,” said board member Katie Leach, asking administrators to “try to accommodate for our employees as best we can in the space we have.”,0,5254418.story

  18. School District Employee Layoffs says:

    School district employees hit with layoffs
    May 31 2012 08:42:54 AM

    […] An estimated 15 to 20 transportation department workers — some with 25 years or more at the board — were called to a mystery meeting with transportation chief Chester Tindall’s office. Then one by one they were told it was their last day at the school district and that they would be given severance of one month’s pay. […]

    Many more layoffs are expected.

  19. Huh? says:

    Is “An estimated 15 to 20 transportation workers” being layed off in an organization with 30,000 employees news-worthy?

  20. Citizen says:

    thank you Buddy for the forum for all to chime in. See this

    on how Dade is trying to deal w/$90M shortfall. we are not alone and interesting comments to that as well
    NO cuts to teachers, arts,PE or languages