School Superintendent Moves To Stifle Public Debate



First Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie proposed hiring a high-paid PR exec to manage the news.

Now he wants to give the public less time to publicly speak to their elected School Board members.

Runcie is proposing to cut the number of School Board meetings in half – to one from two-a-month.

What’s wrong with that?

I think Runcie’s real goal is better PR.  He wants less time for disagreements in public. He wants less time for parents and taxpayers to take shots at the schools. In his mind, that equals a better image for the system

He claims his idea will save money because his staff won’t be tied up by the meetings.

So the staff’s salary is going to be cut because they don’t have a meeting to attend? What work isn’t getting done because staffers are at the meetings?

And why does the hierarchy of the school system have to attend every meeting?  They call department heads only when they are needed to explain an agenda item at Broward County Commission.

This is a masquerade.  It is really about stifling public debate.   After all, Runcie is from Chicago where much of the decision-making is done behind closed doors.

I am willing to bet his next move is against volunteer committees who sometimes go public with criticism of the schools.  Is the system’s dedicated auditors, who have been very effective publicly pointing out waste, next on the chopping block?

I know the meetings are often tedious and the same gadflies tend to speak. Lots of folks, however, watch the meetings on TV to find out about what’s going on with their tax money.

The big problem with his proposal is that the School Board will have less face time with the public – either in person or on the broadcasts of its meetings.

The school system needs more public involvement, not less.  The school system needs more transparency, not less.

The School Board needs to kill this idea.

After all, there is another way of thinking of Runcie proposal:  If the School Board is going to meet half the time in the future, how about cutting members’ salaries in half?  That is, if you really want to save money.

No, I didn’t think so.

29 Responses to “School Superintendent Moves To Stifle Public Debate”

  1. Jeanne says:

    I have heard that he is very shocked that the School Board is less focused on the areas of curriculum and student achievement and more in the areas that are the Superintendent’s purview.

    I am not sure how I stand on Mr. RUncie’s proposal. I do beleive the net effect will be less opportunities for neophyte board members suffer from foot in mouth disease. Less opportunites for the regulars to jump on what every band wagon issue there is on that day’s agenda.

    I agree that the volunteer committees are next on the potential chopping block. I hope I am wrong.

  2. Wayne Arnold says:

    As the late great radio talk jock Neil Rogers used to say “UNBELIEVEABLE”. Having only one meeting monthly for a school system the size of Broward county is to say the least disappointing. First, it dilutes the forum for citizen input. And, second it weakens the legislative powers and decision making policies of the elected school board members.
    Now is the time for total revelation of the good, bad and ugly…warts and all that exist in the administration of our schools.

  3. Jeanne says:

    I am wondering if that isn’t exactly what the Superintendent hopes to accomplish. One of the huge problems that the Grand Jury pointed out was Board interference in the day to day operations of the District. Perhaps in Mr. Runcie’s estimation this may be a way to stop this. It also may be a way to get the Board to stop dragging 30 minutes conversations on topics to 2 1/2 hour.

    FROM BUDDY: Much of the interferance is done behind the scene now.

  4. Kevin Tynan says:

    Buddy: The current methodology for School Board meetings and workshops does not make sense. The superintendent and key staff spend a significant amount of time at meetings with the Board, instead of in the field or at their own desk. I am mindful of your concern about public access and ability to present issues directly to the full board at a meeting. However, if there is a way to streamline the process but allow the important topics to still get a full and fair public vetting, I am all for it

  5. Tamarac Talk says:

    Forget about citizen input. Have you ever attended these meetings and seen the same wackos address the board? What a joke. We can schedule all 3 of them in one monthly meeting and save everyones time.

  6. Jeanne says:

    Thursday is a rule adoption hearing, which several as the school board first reading of a policy on the Code of Conduct. This an avenue few know about that allows the public to speak to this issue. The problem that the District is finally acknowledging is that advertising in the newspaper isn’t real public notification. Hopefully wide spread knowledge of this process will happen this year.

  7. Jeanne says:

    Start paying attention to the public input at the rule adoption workshops.
    They are now considered first reading of any policy.

  8. Jerry Williams says:

    Hello Buddie:

    I have 2 kids in Broward Public school. I often listen to school board meetings on the radio. It’s typically a waste of time. The average citizen speaker is a fool. Their knowledge and information is inversely proportional to the time they take up. I pity the board members who have to endure this nonsense. I can’t recall the last time I heard anything meaningful which justifies the time and resources that the board members expend participating in the meetings.

    Jerry Williams

  9. City Activist Robert Walsh says:

    It stands to reason he would say that these meetings are way to long and excessive. As far as him hiring a PIO Officer-ALL DAY LONG. He needs to have someone who HE can trust to handle all the request sfrom the Public that the School BD. gets. It also stands to reason because we are one of the (5) largest public school districts in the Country. Hire the PIO Director Mr.runcie. Anyone gives you a hard time we will get the Emanuel (Ari,Rahm-as if no one knows these to)brothers after them. I can assure you Rahm there can do more than just stand on his toes.

  10. Jaemi Levine says:

    Mr. Runcie is a disappointment. If he were an elected official his two blaring affronts to transparency and access for public input would be cause to inspire a recall! If there is a probationary period before we need to endow him with more severance pay I hope a review is called for. Highly paid PR rep. equals Spin, in my opinion the last thing our parents, students, and teachers need is the smoke and mirrors’ spin doctors create! We also don’t need someone EMPLOYED by our elected officials forgetting the chain of command before the ink is dry on his contract. Mr. Runcie if you did not move to Florida for the sunshine you picked the wrong state. The members of our school board speak for the public we will not have public access denied.

  11. Budget Busting Billionaires says:

    The Broward County School Board has a budget of over four (4) billion dollars a year and here it is the school board fired over 1300 teachers in the last 9 months because it did not have enough money.

    Then it turns around blames it on governor moon beam Rick Scott — that is the guy that presided over a hospital company that was fined over a billion dollars for fraud.

    Ohh Alex Sink you have no idea how many will vote for you in 2014!

    Why did former school board members Thomas and Gottlieb resign?

    Thomas’s wife is still on a local water district board as an elected official.

    Jennifer Gottlieb’s husband is still a newly minted county court judge. Thankfully that poor man is getting his pension years in at a high salary to compliment the years in he has as a state legislator.

    As for Hazelle Rogers! She is definitely the talk of the town.

    Word on the street is that Dale was smart enough to walk away.

  12. gi jane says:

    is it me? i’m not feeling it with runcie…

  13. Tamarac Talk says:

    I gotta agree with you Jerry. I listen to them too.

  14. Cause_not_Symptom says:

    News Flash!!! Staff does not need to sit at the board meetings all day. For example, rather than meandering through their agenda, the board should take it sequentially and allow the required staff to be present for the items requiring their potential input and/or clarification and then they can go back to being productive in their operational capacities.

    Has anyone noticed that Tom Lindner sits at the area in front of the dais for the entire meeting? They can be discussion curriculum items for hours and he is still sitting their, on camera, chewing on his reading glasses, doing little or nothing useful. That is waste and abuse.

    Agenda items are organized by letters and areas of division responsibility. For example “E” items are the Operations items. “EE” items are Operations items over a dollar threshold that requires the opportunity for board discussion and public input. In other words, double letter items are not subject to consent approval without the opportunity for public to provide comment or input.

    The current method by the board is to jump from one “E” item to a “JJ” item and then a “Time Certain” item. Suddenly, the enter into a discussion on a budget item that takes an hour…and then “Pulp Fiction” back into the agenda with no real logical approach. The result is that staff has to “hang around” all day to be there “in case” their item comes up. That is wasteful and abusive to the taxpayers. It also shows a profound lack of professionalism and leadership on the part of the school board. They are not just enabling this waste, in many cases they are facilitating it.

    Question: Why can’t the board methodically approach their own agenda and then staff can be productive until such time that they know their presence is required? Then they can reduce the amount of waste that Runcie is using as his excuse for limiting meetings and public input, while establishing some sense of much needed order to these unnecessarily dragged out meetings. It is a win-win. Staff is available when needed and the meetings are shorter due to some measure of efficiency.

  15. Sam the Sham says:

    Runcie is quickly using up his honeymoon. I hope we see something that makes us feel better about things instead of the same old, same old.

  16. Jeanne says:

    Did you guys expect that any one hired as superintendent would walk in and 8 weeks perform miracles? Even if Mr. Runcie does succeed in cutting down the amount of time the circus meets, Lets see how many times the public gets to speak to the Board: 1 regular school board meeting, 1 school board workshop; 1 rule adoption workshop;( this is per month) the listening tour; a telephone call, email (24/7).

    So is it the entertainment value of the public speakers we are going to miss while the district redirects its focus on student achievement? It is my understanding that is what he wants to do, redirect the focus on curriculum. The district has a huge undertaking in moving to common core standards. I don;t know about the rest of you, but I would rather see the resources directed at that than whether the current crop of gadflys get to spew their misinformation and ignorance over the air waves.

  17. Creekster says:

    Jeanney werent you chief Gadfly not to long ago? How can Runcee want to put the focus on curriculum he is not versed in iit! How many people feel their voice was heard before the new board? We do not want to go backward. Chair picks order of agenda perhaps that can be streamlined but do not stifle bpard and public. Otherwise we would still have PpO Boondoggle and handshake deals!

  18. LifesABeach says:

    Must be a new election cycle since Levine is at her keyboard again pretending she cares about schools. I can only hope her platform this time around is “Three Strikes and I Promise I’m Out”.

  19. Jeanne says:

    If being an advocate for kids and addressing issues like curriclum, discipline makes me a gadfly, why would that bother me? But this sin’t about me, its about the avenues the public has to speak with School Board members. In a previous post I outlines the multitude of ways the public may reach the Board members.

    If the public wants to attend the Board meetings to address a particular item or issue no one is stopping them.

    As I enjoy my hiatus as DAC Chair, it hasn’t stopped me from addressing issues of concern. A person doesn’t need the mike or the cameras to effect change.

    BTW, Runcie is familiar with curriculum. Read his resume more closely. There is nothing wrong to focusing everyone back on the chief purpose of public schools, educating our children.

  20. Granteed Finished says:

    Louie Granteed’s chances of being elected Broward Sheriff are finished. A story has been leaked about his sexual harassment problems with female police officers. Sounds like Herman Cain all over again except these details really make you cringe. Read about it at the link below.

  21. Floridan says:

    @Jeanne: “So is it the entertainment value of the public speakers we are going to miss while the district redirects its focus on student achievement?”

    Exactly — 99% of all public speakers are either kissing up to someone or engaging in political grandstanding. Those who are actually interested in making changes in the system know that addressing the board members at a public meeting is an amatuer’s game.


    It is the parent’s and citizen’s right to address and confront the Board. I have seen the Board change direction on such issues as the future of the Nova Schools and the location of new schools based on public comments.

    It is very difficult for average folks to make views known to the Board in other settings. I’ve heard from many over the years that a number of Board members are notoriously hard to reach by phone. They also make relatively few appointments with the actual public.

    Oh, Board members do visit schools, where they are shepherded around by the administration (How open is staff and parents going to be with Board members when administrators are standing their taking notes?) and shown a white-washed picture of what’s going on. Why else would they be “shocked, shocked” that Hallandale High was in such disrepair when the conditions were exposed by activists at public meetings earlier this year? I could give dozens of other examples.

    The Board should have televised town hall meetings in their districts. They should provide more opportunities for transparency, not less.

  22. Jeanne says:

    Buddy, I am not going to disagree with your comments to Floridan. I know I have been very fortunate to have the access I have had for so many years.

    You are right in saying that there have been times when the School Board is swayed by public comments at a public meeting. Usually the people that sway the Board of well thought out, rational comments. I have yet to see screaming or insulting the Board be effective.

    I have said this before and I will it again. We need to focus like a laser on the curriculum issues of this school district. So, much change is coming and we must be prepared to meet the challenge of all expectations being raised so the fewest kids fall through the proverbial cracks.

  23. Anonomyte says:

    Are the Broward School Board meetings available over public radio broadcast like the Dade County Board meetings? They should be.

    I’m not sure of the answer.

  24. Where's Radio? says:

    School Board meetings are broadcast by WKPX-FM 88.5 from Piper High School.

  25. Triptrey says:

    Echoing Jeanne’s comments here. Clearly, our school boards accountability to our children should be paramount to anything. Open, transparent meetings, should be made available live. The technology is there and simple. Spending time on determining how to keep things from public scrutiny places the school board in a nasty place. They should not ever get there. The purpose of this body is to ensure the best education possible to our children. Lets do what Jeanne says and make sure they are focus on curriculum

  26. Jeanne says:

    The School Board regular meetings are broadcasted live on the radio 88.5 FM. The regular meetings and the workshops are streamed lived from The regular school board meetings are broadcast on Beacon starting at 4:00 p.m. the day of the meeting on Tuesdays.

  27. So Done says:

    The Board Meetings are entirely too long, and there is no need for referrals, follow ups and action requests to staff from the Board!

    Administrators at the District work 24/7, catering to the Board MEMBERS. The Supt is the operational leader. The corporate Board and individual Board Members have been involved in operations for far too long. The Board’s job is to set policy and approve budget items over a certain amount.

    They don’t need individual secretaries! They don’t need offices on the top floor of KCW! They don’t need full time salaries!

    We have one Supt, not NINE. At least when Petruzielo was here, Board Members could not interfere in Operations.

    If Runcie does not get control now, staff will be “working” for Board Members like they did under Till and Notter (he allowed them to run the district) when many administrators were needlessly forced out of the organization due to politics, bullying, or literally DIED (Garretson, Coates) from the after effects Stephanie Kraft/Bob Parks running things.

  28. jeanne says:

    Seems to me Mr. Runcie is going to try the new meeting schedule based on Tuesday’s workshop. Finally the district will have staff working things like making sure there is fidelity of implementation in the Common Core standards and other reforms.

  29. the Real Truth says:

    If the School Board meetings were really focused on policy and not micromanaging the district, then one meeting a month would be sufficient. Unfortunately, School Board members don’t know, understand, or care about the differences between setting policy and managing the district. I have said over and over if they don’t have confidence in the senior staff, then that is a personnel problem. The School Board should establish the direction of the train, keep it on track, and then let the engineers and conductors run the train.