Schoolbooks found in dumpster at South Plantation High School

Parent takes photos of books that appeared to be in new, unused condition

PLANTATION, Fla. – "They don't look that worthless that they should be thrown in the dumpster," veteran Broward County teacher Anna Fusco said.

Fusco was looking at a few discarded books that a parent pulled out of a dumpster behind South Plantation High School.

"There's a lot of waste everywhere," the parent who found those books said.

The parent had taken photos of grammar and reading workbooks he said he discovered in two dumpsters. The books appeared to be in new and unused condition.

"It's a shame. It's a crying shame," he said.

The parent was too scared for his child, still attending the school, to be identified.

"Yeah, we use those books," student Derrick Mathier said when shown the copies.

Student Joshua De Leon agreed, saying, "Yeah, in my sophomore year of high school."

"Oh, that's bad," Tania Tembras said while picking up a child from school.

"I think it's a waste of a book," Sandra Stein said while doing the same.

Local 10 News investigative reporter Ross Palombo then showed the photograph to school Superintendent Robert Runcie.

"Were you shocked to see the photo?" Palombo asked.

"You know? Yes," Runcie said.

Runcie said the district spends in excess of $10 million a year on textbooks, and to safeguard those millions it has a clear, written procedure to remove unwanted books, pack them and truck them to the textbook warehouse for storage. From there, other schools can possibly obtain and use them.

"So we do do that," Runcie said.

"But you didn't do it with these?" Palombo asked.

"We didn't do it in that case, apparently so," said Runcie.

"Is that a problem?" Palombo asked.

"It is a problem," Runcie said.

It may also be a problem with the law. Although Runcie said he has never seen it, a state law mandates giving or selling instructional materials before destroying them.

After showing Runcie the books, however, he believed that few schools would've taken them and fewer would've bought them.

"Those books are over a decade old; a lot has changed in education since then," Runcie said.

"Is there someone who could use this book?" Palombo then asked Fusco.

"Oh yes, definitely," she said.

The 20-year teaching veteran said that in her experience, there is a classroom that could use them.

"Well, I think maybe they could donate them to maybe less fortunate schools," she said.

There may be a classroom willing to buy them. Textbooks.com lists some of the books as high as $24.99. Others were listed around $14, $8, $6 or $7.

"It's a big deal," the parent who discovered the books said, "because then you have maybe thousands of books that were in that dumpster. So it would be $7 times 1,000."

"That the school can use?" Palombo asked.

"That the school can use," he said.

Their value may be why so many used books fly off the shelves at the district's own warehouse. During Local 10's recent visit, there was row after row of empty bookcases. All of this was seen not too long after the parent says he discovered the dumpsters filled with books.

"As the superintendent, are you OK with these materials winding up in the dumpster this way?" Palombo asked.

"No, I am not," Runcie said.

"Do you think this is happening at other schools?" Palombo asked.

"If I see it at one school, I have to suspect it may be happening at other schools," he said.

There is no other proof, though, at any other school. But students and parents said one is enough: their school, their dumpsters and their books. Now they are hoping that this will be the last chapter of dumping.

"They shouldn't throw away a perfectly good book," De Leon said.

The district does believe that the books were at least dumped into recycling bins.

The district also said the books were included free as part of a large textbook order. The textbooks were paid for, though, by taxpayer money.

The district said it's now looking into all of this to make sure every school knows the policy and the law.

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