Critics say layoffs politically motivated

35 low-, mid-level jobs targeted for layoffs

By Bob Norman - Investigative Reporter

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - More layoffs are slated for Broward County Public Schools, and many of those targeted say this time the layoffs are politically motivated and reckless.

Superintendent Robert Runcie unveiled his plan to privatize much of the district's construction and facilities department at a workshop last week, which would mean the loss of 35 low- and mid-level jobs. He brought up grand jury reports slamming school board waste and mismanagement and the arrest of two school board members as one reason for the layoffs.

"The cost of not doing this is public perception, declining public trust," said Runcie. "The cost of not doing this is ... the lack of ability to make the case for the public to give us more dollars."

Runcie was making a clear reference to the bond issue that he and the board are expected to soon ask the public to finance at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars.

But critics of the new outsourcing plan point out that none of the employees on the chopping block -- which includes engineers, clerical workers, and other support staff in the construction department -- were connected to any of the wrongdoing highlighted in the grand jury report or criminal cases.

"I've always had good evaluations, never had a complaint against me," said Joe DeLillo, who has worked 25 years at the Broward County School Board.

Yet DeLillo, a construction project manager, is one of the 35 workers targeted, as is project manager David Hermann, who points out that high-level management will remain in place.

"We're being a scapegoat for the transgressions of management," said Herrmann. "I don't see how the public would be fooled by this maneuver considering that management, the responsible management, is staying in place. It's just business as usual as far as I'm concerned."

Another criticism of the plan: Runcie has yet to produce any reports or analysis on potential cost benefits or details about what private company would come in run the department. Despite the lack of a detailed plan or analysis, many board members have already voiced their support. Board Member Nora Rupert, however, isn't convinced the move makes any sense.

"If you are unhappy with the way the team is performing, you don't cut the third string quarterback," she said. "You cut the starter or the manager."

Board members are expected to vote on the layoffs – and Runcie's entire organizational chart for the coming year – at Tuesday's board meeting.

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