WLRN | by Sherrilyn Cabrera | February 16, 2021
The Broward Teachers Union has sent a letter to Broward County schools superintendent Robert Runcie, putting him on notice. The union on Friday warned the school district of potentially facing legal liability if they “continue to ignore legitimate safety and wellness issues.”
The notice was written by the Florida workers compensation legal firm Bichler & Longo.
“Since it appears that legitimate issues related to teacher safety and wellness are being ignored, in a push to return to normal classroom settings, I want to make sure that the School Board is on notice for proceeding in this fashion,” wrote Geoffrey Bichler in the letter.
Arbitrator Roger Abrams, who is working on the lawsuit against Broward County Public Schools by the Broward Teachers Union, ruled last month that the district must provide information to the union that explains why a principal denied remote accommodations for teachers.
According to the union, the information that the district provided was inadequate, leading them to ask Abrams to take further action.
Abrams ruled that principals of all schools must hold a one-hour meeting with union members to discuss accommodation issues.
“His failed leadership has created chaos in the schools and has resulted in only 27 percent of students returning to classrooms while nearly all teachers have been back in buildings since October. That is unacceptable,” said Anna Fusco, president of the Broward Teachers Union in a statement.
Tensions between the union and the school district began early last month after the school district ended remote work accommodations for more than 1,100 teachers. Runcie has said his concern is that many students are not doing well academically through online learning.
“We began to look at students who we see are not making adequate academic progress and that number is around 59,000 students,” said Runcie during a webinar with other superintendents last month. “Those numbers don’t take into effect the students who are just not as engaged, those who are having social, emotional and mental health challenges because of the situation we’re in.”
The Broward Teachers Union sent out thousands of flip flops with messages from teachers to the Broward County school board, as well as other Broward County community leaders. “Teachers have had it,” said Anna Fusco, Broward Teachers Union President.
Union Claims District Spied On Teachers
Separate from the lawsuit, the Broward Teachers Union is asking the district for an investigation into Broward County Public School’s general counsel Barbara Myrick, accusing her of spying on medically at-risk teachers by going through their personal Facebook accounts.
Photos from teachers’ social accounts were presented during the arbitration hearing between the district and the union. Fusco said Myrick ordered district employees to catch remote-working teachers acting irresponsibly.
In the photos, teachers are seen attending a wedding, visiting a theme park and attending a political rally.
Myrick has said she did not spy, but instead it was district employees who sent her the evidence.
“We didn’t even know they did it until the day that we started the arbitration hearing, when they put it out there as evidence, they never even gave us the evidence ahead of time,” said Fusco. “To expose things that was never really validated or understood if the person had an accommodation or if the pictures were of this year, even.”
Photo: The Broward Teachers Union set up billboard questioning Broward County Public Schools superintendent Robert Runcie’s leadership throughout the coronavirus pandemic. The poster asks: “Will he protect students and teachers?”