South Florida Sun Sentinel | by Scott Travis | April 27, 2021
At least two of the Broward School Board’s nine members favor removing schools Superintendent Robert Runcie and top lawyer Barbara Myrick after their indictments last week. And a vast majority of public comments to the school district also weigh against them.
Board members Lori Alhadeff and Debra HIxon said they would support action such as placing Runcie and General Counsel Myrick on administrative leave.
Board member Sarah Leonardi declined to say what action she supports. The other board members couldn’t be reached.
Runcie said in a video that he plans to stay and fight.
The superintendent is charged with perjury and Myrick with unlawful disclosure of grand jury testimony after they were indicted by a statewide grand jury empaneled after the Parkland school shooting.
Hixon said other employees accused of crimes or serious allegations are often removed from their jobs and placed on leave or reassigned to another job.
“I believe Mr. Runcie is even a step above that as the leader of our organization,” Hixon said. “We should be holding our leaders at least equally as stringent and possibly more than other employees.”WATCH VIDEO: Robert Runcie says he’ll be vindicated. »
Alhadeff, who requested that Runcie be fired in 2019 and has rated Myrick unsatisfactory, wouldn’t say what specific action she supports. In a text message, she said she’ll do what’s in the best interest of students and staff
“We must end this repetitive cycle of a failure in leadership, management, execution and communication,” she wrote.
The School Board plans a workshop at 2:30 p.m. Thursday. No voting can happen at this meeting, since it has been advertised as only a workshop, but the board can reach a consensus.
Another meeting is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday, when the board could take any formal action.
A school district portal has received about 65 comments from the public regarding today’s meeting. The comments ran 3 to 1 in favor of removing Runcie temporarily or permanently. Eight people wrote that they wanted Myrick removed, with none explicitly stating support for her.
Natasha Gonell of Pembroke Pines said Runcie’s arrest set a bad example for students like her 13-year-old son. She recommended the board fire him.
“I think it’s very sad that he’s had to see his superintendent’s mugshot all over the news. When he asked why, I explained that his superintendent was arrested for perjury and discussed perjury with him,” she said. “My son and all of the students of Broward County schools deserve a superintendent they can look up to. Guilty or not, the arrest and everything being said on the news about it is not going to just go away.”
Parkland parent Shelly Shoulders also wants Runcie removed.
“He has shown negligence pertaining to mismanaged funds and even more importantly has failed when it comes to keeping our children safe,” Shoulders wrote. “He has proved time and time again that he is not qualified for the job. Please take this opportunity to prove to the community that the safety and education of our children is your main priority.”
Others want Runcie to stay, saying he’s the victim of a politically motivated witch hunt. They say Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, created the grand jury in hopes of finding a way to blame Runcie for the Parkland shooting Although Parkland was the impetus of the grand jury, Runcie and Myers are charged in connection with the Hunter case, which resulted from the same grand jury.
Supporters like Miramar resident Dina Bertrand say Runcie has done a great job.
“I have witnessed first-hand his dedication and hard work for our children,” wrote Bertrand, whose grandchildren attend Broward schools. “I believe that it would be a shame to disrupt the education of our children. Superintendent Robert Runcie has made tremendous improvements to our school system. Please, please retain his services.
Some supporters who spoke at a rally for Runcie on Friday also submitted comments, including County Commissioner Dale Holness; Bob Swindell, CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance; and Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam.
The Broward County Council of PTA’s has also issued a statement in support of Runcie.
“As an association we have flourished with the support of the superintendent and the school board, and we were very heartbroken to hear of his arrest,” the statement said. “We will not rush to judgment and wait for all the facts regarding these charges to be disclosed by official sources. … As we continue to support Superintendent Robert Runcie, we also will focus on supporting our teachers and students during this time.”
Both Runcie and Myrick have been working, according to a statement from the office of Chief Communications Officer Kathy Koch. The district declined to say whether the two would attend the meeting. Both are attending academic workshops before the board discussion.
Image: Screenshot of Sun Sentinel video.