Students, Parents And Teachers: Still Waiting For School Repairs






For over a decade Northeast High School in Oakland Park has been the prime example of Broward County’s deteriorating school system.

Leaky, smelly and crumbling. The school that dates from 1962 is perhaps a health hazard to students and staff.

Northeast is in such bad shape that Superintendent Robert Runcie picked it to kick off the 2014 campaign for the passage of $800 million bond referendum.

Runcie promised that the bonds would provide money to fix the school.

Voters approved the bonds.

Students, parents and teachers have waited for the fix.

And waited.

And waited.

The Northeast High community will be waiting a lot longer, they were warned last week.

The news came directly from Leo Bobadilla, the school system’s chief of facilities, and his staff.  Appearing at the Oakland Park Commission, he told commissioners not to expect a quick fix.

The school system doesn’t want to rush repairs, Bobadilla said. Repairs are not a race, they are a marathon, he added.

He said this with a straight face.


Leo Bobadilla Pix

Leo Bobadilla


What Bobadilla didn’t say:

Most of today’s students at Northeast will have graduated before the school is repaired….if the latest timetable from the school system is believable.

But promises are only as good as those who make them.

Northeast High’s community is sadly familiar with broken promises from the School Board and Runcie. Broken promises to repair the school have been a constant for over a decade.

The School Board and Runcie say they are not to blame.  They point fingers at the usual boogieman: Republicans in Tallahassee.

Then how come other schools such as Cooper City High got fixed?

Maybe because Cooper City High is in a more affluent area. Maybe because Cooper City has a majority of white students, while the bulk of Northeast’s student are minorities.

Maybe because Cooper City is represented on the School Board by a Runcie supporter, while Northeast is represented by a Runcie skeptic.

The Sun-Sentinel had a different take on Northeast High’s continued problems. The paper last year blamed “bureaucratic blunders” for delaying repairs at Northeast and other schools.

Whatever the reason, Northeast’s plight continue.

The school has a leaky roof, soggy tiles, a pervasive smell of dampness and possible mold, according to Oakland Park commissioners.

Bathrooms are in such poor condition that Oakland Park Vice Mayor Tim Lonergan called them “health issues.” Some students and teachers wade through ankle-high puddles to get to class. The walls and floors are cracked and in disrepair.

In 2008, the school system estimated that Northeast needed $23 million.

In 2013, the school system’s Director of Physical Plant Operations Sam Bays told the Sun-Sentinel that Northeast High had more than $38 million of deferred maintenance costs

Now, Bobadilla and Runcie are only promising to spend $15-16 million over several years.

Last week, Oakland Park Commissioners were told that the school is slated to get the roof fixed. They were not promised a roof replacement. Northeast’s roof may just be patched up again.

Northeast is also scheduled to get improved air conditioning, fire sprinklers and fire alarms. A generation after the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990, the school also will finally get more ADA accessibility.

Oh, the school is also promised renovations to the weigh room and STEM lab, plus construction of a “single access” campus for security. And new scoreboards and a digital sign.

Oakland Park commissioners appeared incredulous.

Vice Mayor Lonergan tried to pin down Bobadilla. He would have had an easier time sweeping up mercury.

What about the rundown bathrooms, Lonergan asked.

“We’re talking health issues here,” he said.

Bobadilla gave a non-answer. It was a prime example of why nobody who listens carefully can believe Runcie’s staff.

“Our maintenance team works with the custodial staff. If there are things that require support, we will certainly provide that,” Bobadilla said.

Translation: We haven’t done anything about the bathrooms for years and we are not promising to do anything now.

What about the persistent dampness throughout the school that smells like mold, Lonergan asked.

“We did not find that (mold),” Bobadilla said, adding the school system was still doing tests and “evaluations.” More than two years after the bond referendum passed.

Note that his answer didn’t address the smell and the dampness.

What about the poor lighting throughout the school, Lonergan persisted.

“Lighting for the most part is not one of the emphasises,” Bobadilla answered.

Lonergan asked about the ”ponds and lakes” on Northeast’s campus.


Tim Longergan

Tim Lonergan


The question at first appeared to amuse Bobadilla.  He seemed to brush it off by noting that it rained a lot in South Florida.

So how come most of South Florida’s schools, commercial buildings and homes don’t flood every time it rains hard?

Bobadilla, perhaps sensing his first answer was too flippant, later added that his crews had already been at the school and provided “significant improvement.”

Translation: “Significant improvement” doesn’t equate to solving the problem.

Northeast students and staff will continue to walk through puddles and smelly, poorly lit hallways for the foreseeable future.

Lonergan learned what anybody who questions the school system’s top administrators already know. They seem to be hired because of their ability to dissemble. To spin.  To avoid the truth and avoid blame at all costs.

And the School Board wonders why so many don’t believe them, Runcie or his staff?

Babadilla said his latest timetable has the few renovations at Northeast High beginning before the end of the year.

Construction could take two or more years…through 2020.

Don’t hold your breath.  Or maybe you should if you are walking through the hallways of Northeast High.



15 Responses to “Students, Parents And Teachers: Still Waiting For School Repairs”

  1. Charles King says:

    The $800 million school bond snow job continues for Fort Lauderdale and the other original eastern communities. Although crumbling Northeast High isn’t inside Fort Lauderdale City limits like crumbling Stranahan High it is just across the city line from Fort Lauderdale and much of the student body lives in and pays property taxes in Fort Lauderdale. What exactly is the increasingly culpable Broward School Board waiting for, Superintendent Runcie to declare himself a failure and fire himself? His handpicked Chief of Facilities Leo Bobadilla fresh off his own massive failure in Houston which was on par with Runcie’s previous failure in Chicago looks even more than he sounds the part of government ineptitude doesn’t he? I, like a lot of property taxpaying parents and citizens in Fort Lauderdale am really stuck as to what to do about a system (THE DISTRICT) that takes our money and is not providing proper representation to the east and its schools. I’m guessing our forefathers that dressed up like Indians under the cover of night and threw the taxed tea into Boston harbor might have some suggestions for us as to how to get our schools completely replaced by the distant unresponsive taxing authority instead of just patched up on the cheap by a bureaucrat with a patronizing self-assured smile.

  2. NW Broward MODC says:

    It’s astonishing that high school students will march for just about anything; BLM,LBGTQ,PETA etc. but students have not had a sit-out at Northeast for their own personal health and safety.

    How about a ” Mold Down, Wheels Up” event on April 20, at the NEHS football field?

  3. bruce voelkel says:

    Can a citizens ask that their tax dollars go into a private trust until the school system gets schools like Stranahan and Northeast High schools get their promised repairs? How can a private citizen do this?


    Good idea.

  4. carolina says:

    How much of the 800 million bond money remains unspent?
    Doesn’t anyone with half a brain know that Runcie is saving that money for his “big departure” in 2019, an extension of time given to him after only two years in office, by a “certain few” board members – with the exclusion of Nora, Heather, & one other whose name I cannot remember at this time. Those three were the only ones who would stand up for the students, teachers, & schools & stand up to Runcie. The Broward School System is in the middle of MASS DESTRUCTION created by the Runcie regime. If we could be so lucky, just maybe he will blast off back to Chicago long before 2019, & take the board members with him who hired him & then gave him that time extension.

  5. Charlotte says:

    I hope the public understands that city commissioners can’t do anything about the inefficiencies, wastefulness and delays of the schools. The public schools are run by a School Board, which is byandlarge dysfunctional and beholding to Runcie. The Legislature has to take a hand. There should be Term Limits for School Board members. Runcie and the Board must be placed under strict ethics reform enforced by the Inspector General, State Attorney and LFDE

  6. H. T. says:

    This is why my children are in charter schools.

  7. moreofthesamecrap says:

    I’m not sure I agree #4. Any Commissioner can go to Tallahassee as a Commissioner, Tax Payer and probably a parent. The bottom line is Runcie and most Board members have a proven record of acting negligently. The public expects Runcie to hold staff accountable, and the Board to hold Runcie accountable, yet no one is holding the Board responsible by voting them out. Until everyone bands together and speak as a group at the State level, nothing will be done. And I am not talking about Sit on his Hands Satz. He has been Atty Gen the whole time and too has done nothing. Only the FEDs have been effective.

  8. moreofthesamecrap says:

    #5 a word of caution about Charters. Charters can close at any time like any business. Past charters have with minimal notice in the middle of the year and then irresponsibility dumped student records and then public schools are left to clean up the mess.

  9. moreofthesamecrap says:

    Bobadilla has staff, Heery consultants and Adkins consultants and Bond oversight and STILL can’t get the job done. He had the chance to listen to staff and chose not to, just like Runcie.

  10. tired teacher says:

    So, I looked around on the SMART propaganda website from the district and cannot find the individual school lists showing how each school would benefit. What could have happened to them? hmmmm PS – try to find a teacher who voted for the referendum.

  11. An Observer says:

    And you honestly expected that this wouldn’t have happened?

    Add to that, And you honestly expected that most of the School Board Members speak up if problems came up?

    It was and continues to be one of the most predictable outcomes I know of, just short of death and taxes.

    Next prediction, money will run out without finishing a good part of what this bond was to pay for, and the School Board will come back for another Bond Issue to finish the work (but they won’t again). There will be fingers pointing to substandard work, delays, some questionable financial transactions, maybe charges.

    Where can I place this bet?

  12. Marie D'Aminico says:

    Enough is Enough! Runcie and his “team” will constantly be unaccountable. The Citizens of Broward County need to do a class action lawsuit to get the $800 million bond reversed due to gross negligence. Let’s go!

  13. WestDavieResident says:

    I am curious and hope someone with municipal bond experience can answer me.

    Has the full amount of the bond funds been raised and placed in a school district trust account or are only portions of the bond money raised as needed?

    If fully funded, I would think those millions of dollars are earning some kind of interest income which could help pay for the newly noted funding shortfalls? 1% would generate nearly $8 million each year the funds sit there.

  14. Charlotte Greenbarg says:

    His facial expression says all I need to know about him. Runcie, Bobadilla, their minions and the Board members who support them need to be removed. And the voters in Broward need to stay with the ballots to the end instead of voting top of ticket and nothing else

  15. Ironica says:

    Mr. Ruin-ci must gooooo!!!!