86ºF

County worker alleges boxes of schoolbooks sit in South Fla. parking lot

Employee claims boxes sat out in open at Seagull High School lot

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – There are new allegations after a Local 10 News investigation uncovered photos of Broward County schoolbooks tossed into the trash.

Last week, a parent came forward saying he saw two dumpsters filed with books at South Plantation High School.

"I actually looked inside the dumpster, and as far as I could see two dumpsters full of these books. It's a shame. It's a crying shame," he said.

Even superintendent Robert Runcie was caught off guard.

"Were you shocked to see the photo?" Local 10 investigative reporter Ross Palombo asked.

"Um, yes," Runcie said.

Related: Schoolbooks found in dumpster at South Plantation High School

A county worker has now come forward leveling new allegations.

"I thought it was odd," he said. "There were boxes of books just sitting in the parking lot. That's not right," the employee said.

It happened at Seagull High School. The employee said every day for months he would drive by and see the same boxes of books in the parking lot sitting out in the open.

"You could even see on the pallet where some of the boxes had gotten wet over time subjected to the elements," he said.

School records show that those boxes were filled with literature and algebra books that were bought back in 2003 for tens of thousands of dollars. Records also show that one of the invoices for those boxes was created as far back as October 2014.

"Those books for months had no covering on them," the employee said.

He believes leaving them in boxes and outside in the elements was as bad as trashing them in a dumpster.

"I was shocked. I really was," a Seagull teacher said after seeing the photos from Plantation. "I don't think it would ever happen here."

That teacher was more shocked to learn that Local 10 took pictures of other books sitting outside her school on at least three separate occasions.

"Four pallets of books in the back," Palombo told her.

"In the back of our school?" she asked. "I have no idea about that."

"This is very different than the case we looked at last week," Runcie said.

Runcie believes it's different because he said Seagull followed district procedures by packing up the books up only five days, not several months, before they were picked-up. The school also appeared to be following state law by intending to dispose, give or lend these books out by eventually sending them to the district's warehouse.

"Very, very different," Runcie said.

"But the allegation is that they were improperly handled and left out in the rain and weather," Palombo said.

"These materials were not hampered by weather," Runcie said. "We asked for them to be shrink-wrapped for that very reason."

"The superintendent said they were wrapped in plastic," Palombo later told the employee who saw them.

"That is not the truth," he said. "That's so far from the truth."

In the photos he supplied, there is no shrink-wrap visible.

Superintendent spokeswoman Tracy Clark later admitted, though, that Runcie had misspoken. She sent Local 10 photos of some books that were now shrink-wrapped and claimed that none of the books in question were damaged.

"The superintendent says they were not damaged. Do you believe that?" Palombo asked the county employee.

"My question would be, did he go over and look at them?" the county employee asked.

Parents, students and teachers have now seen two separate book issues at two separate schools, but all in the same school district.

"No matter what happened out there, do you think that's a problem how this was handled?" Palombo asked.

"It could've been handled better, but again it's a very different incident," Runcie said.

"Can you guarantee this will not happen again and that we won't be out here one more time?" asked Palombo.

"I can guarantee you that I will hold our schools accountable," Runcie said. "We will have consequences. That's the guarantee I can give you."

As for those consequences, the superintendent said he is still looking into exactly what happened at both schools.

Since Local 10's first story aired, the district did sent a memorandum reminding principals of the correct way to remove these books. That reminder was also sent to Seagull High, where this latest incident happened.


About the Author: