© 2021 WLRN
MIAMI | SOUTH FLORIDA
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
News

Broward Schools Superintendent To Leave District In August Under Mutual $740K Exit Deal

Runcie Miami Herald Al Diaz.jpeg
Al Diaz/Miami Herald
/
Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie, shown here in 2019, is officially leaving the district after a split vote from the school board on May 11, 2021.

Despite opposition from some school board members, Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie will stay on for 90 days to advise in the soon-to-be-selected interim leader's transition.

A divided Broward County school board voted Tuesday to terminate Superintendent Robert Runcie without cause, ousting him from the district following a 90-day transition period through a mutual exit deal worth more than $740,000.

The board voted 5-4 to fire Runcie as he fights a felony perjury charge after allegedly lying to a statewide grand jury empaneled to examine the district's approach to safety, including the spending of public dollars meant to secure schools.

In these uncertain times, you can rely on WLRN to keep you current on local news and information. Your support is what keeps WLRN strong. Please become a member today. Donate now. Thank you.

Two of the board members who voted against the plan, both arguing Runcie should leave the district sooner, were family members of victims of the 2018 Parkland school shooting: Lori Alhadeff, whose 14-year-old daughter Alyssa was killed; and Debbi Hixon, a veteran educator who lost her husband Chris, then-athletic director and wrestling coach at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The final agreement represented a compromise position between the board and Runcie, as the superintendent had hoped to use accrued paid time off to remain on the district's payroll until October, when he would reach the 10-year anniversary of his hiring. That could have allowed him to receive more than $300,000 in additional benefits.

Instead, Runcie will get $80,000 in those retirement benefits, as well as a contractual severance package that includes additional salary, benefits and his banked sick and vacation time.

Some board members characterized the payout as a smart financial choice for the district. If the board had chosen instead to terminate Runcie with cause, as is also allowed under his contract, the district would owe him less up front, but the board could find itself facing a lawsuit in the future — especially if Runcie is acquitted in the perjury case. He has pleaded not guilty.

"A negotiation is just that: It is a meeting in the middle, or at least a mutual place in which both parties can find themselves in agreement," said board member Donna Korn, who voted in favor of the plan.

"As the largest employer in Broward County, what we do here today as a board does send a message, not only to the employees that we have today but our future employees," Korn said. "I hope, at this moment, that we can demonstrate a collective voice of leadership. I think what has been presented to us is fair."

Earlier during Tuesday's meeting, the board voted down two proposals to move Runcie's end date to late June instead of Aug. 10, suggested changes that would have aligned his departure with the end of the fiscal year.

Most board members were concerned, though, that pushing Runcie out sooner would constitute a breach of the district's contract with him. The contract allows him to continue working for 90 days after being terminated without cause.

Ultimately, the board adopted an amendment that keeps the 90-day provision intact but explicitly states that Runcie will no longer serve as superintendent once an interim leader is chosen.

In addition to Alhadeff and Hixon, board members Nora Rupert and Sarah Leonardi also voted against approving the separation. Rupert has been a consistent critic of Runcie, and Leonardi is a newly elected board member and former district teacher.

The board is discussing next steps for choosing an interim superintendent as well as launching a search for Runcie's permanent replacement during an ongoing meeting Tuesday afternoon.

The district finalized a separation deal, worth more than $200,000, with Barbara Myrick last week. Myrick, the district's general counsel, was also indicted in the grand jury probe — charged with a felony for allegedly illegally revealing information about the investigation.

Myrick will be arraigned Wednesday during a live-streamed hearing held in the Seventeenth Judicial Court of Florida.