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Broward School Board Beginning Formal Negotiations To Part Ways With Superintendent, Top Lawyer

Broward County Superintendent Robert Runcie is on his way out after nearly a decade leading the nation's sixth-largest school district.
Emily Michot/Miami Herald
Broward County Superintendent Robert Runcie is on his way out after nearly a decade leading the nation's sixth-largest school district.

The Broward County School Board hopes to meet next Thursday to finalize the separation agreements and begin discussions about appointing an interim superintendent.

The Broward County School Board is one step closer to formally cutting ties with Superintendent Robert Runcie and General Counsel Barbara Myrick, as both face felony charges stemming from a statewide grand jury investigation into how school districts are approaching safety and security.

The board voted to empower Chair Rosalind Osgood to negotiate separation deals with Runcie and Myrick, after which the agreements would come before the full board for approval. The board would retain the authority to amend those agreements, but if Runcie and Myrick do not agree to the board's requested changes, the two officials' departures would be further delayed.

"I'm going to move as expeditiously as we possibly can within the guidelines, and prayerfully, we can have an emergency meeting or a special meeting on Thursday," Osgood said, referring to next Thursday, May 6.

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During Thursday's tense discussion, board member Lori Alhadeff argued that Osgood should be represented by outside legal counsel during the negotiations. Alhadeff specified she wanted an attorney who has not worked for the school board in the past.

Alhadeff, whose 14-year-old daughter Alyssa was killed in the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, stressed it was important for the attorney representing the school board to be independent and neutral, given that any lawyer who has worked with the district before likely would have worked under Runcie and Myrick directly.

School board member Donna Korn expressed concern that if the separation agreements were written to be effective immediately upon approval by the board, that would give members little time to consider who to appoint as interim superintendent and potentially leave the district without a leader.

Runcie's current contract includes a stipulation for termination without cause that would not take effect immediately but rather after 90 days, allowing the board more time to select an interim replacement. That contract provision would leave Runcie with 20 weeks of severance pay plus his accrued vacation and sick time, which staff estimated would add up to about $333,000.

A few fans of Runcie gave public testimony at the meeting, urging school board members to treat him fairly as they work toward parting ways.

"The honorable thing to do is to ensure that you negotiate a fair settlement, ... one that compensates him for what he has done and what he's been through. Anything less than that would not be right," said Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness, who is also chair of the Broward County Black Elected Officials organization. Holness sent out an email through his commission office late Wednesday night urging constituents to tune into the meeting in support of Runcie.

"The eyes of this community are on you," Holness told the board.

Runcie, who has led the nation's sixth-largest school district since 2011, offered to "step aside" during an emotional school board meeting earlier this week. The way Runcie framed his departure, it was not prompted by the felony perjury charge, which he intends to fight. Rather, he has decided to leave after determining there's nothing else he can do to overcome the lingering anger and resentment from families of the victims of the Parkland school shooting.

According to prosecutors, Runcie contacted witnesses in a separate, criminal case involving a former top district employee who was charged with bid rigging for technology purchases. Then, prosecutors allege, Runcie lied about it to the grand jury, when asked how he prepared for his testimony. Runcie has pleaded not guilty.

Myrick, the district's top lawyer, was charged with a separate felony for allegedly illegally revealing information about the investigation. She is due in court May 12.

School board members have said they will eventually conduct a national search to replace Runcie.

Jessica Bakeman is Director of Enterprise Journalism at WLRN News, and she is the former senior news editor and education reporter. Her 2021 project "Class of COVID-19" won a national Edward R. Murrow Award.
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