Runcie’s association of MSD shooting with willingness to step down offends 2 school board members

School board to set path to negotiate Runcie’s termination agreement on Thursday

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Lori Alhadeff said on Wednesday that the latest School Board of Broward County workshop is the beginning of a much-needed process.

The District 4 school board member said on Tuesday that she wanted to terminate Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie.

Runcie followed by announcing his willingness to step down and to negotiate how to part ways. He said he hopes that gives Alhadeff peace.

“To drop that on Lori’s lap and say, ‘I am sacrificing myself for you’ was so disingenuous and disrespectful to those of us that lost people on Feb. 14,” said Debra Hixon, the seat 9 countywide at-large school board member.

Hixon and Alhadeff said Runcie shouldn’t have associated the discussion about his potential suspension or termination after his arrest on April 21 to the emotional aftermath of the Parkland school massacre.

Debra Hixon, the seat 9 countywide at-large school board member, talks about Tuesday's workshop. (Copyright 2020 by WPLG - All rights reserved.)

Hixon was in tears on Tuesday. Her husband, Chris Hixon, the school’s athletic director, wrestling coach and a military veteran, died after he attempted to disarm the shooter.

Alhadeff lost her 14-year-old daughter Alyssa, a freshman and soccer player, on Feb. 14, 2018, when the shooter targeted Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s Room 1216.

“It’s one step in the healing process for me and one step towards accountability for me, but there is more to this conversation than what transpired yesterday,” Alhadeff said.

Rosalind Osgood, the District 5 school board member and chair, talks about the Tuesday workshop. (Copyright 2020 by WPLG - All rights reserved.)

Rosalind Osgood, the District 5 school board member and chair, a long-time Runcie supporter applauded his “selflessness” for choosing to step aside. She said on Wednesday that she was feeling “extremely sad” and “very hurt.”

Sarah Leonardi, the District 3 school board member, said she was surprised. The school board members didn’t appear to have a consensus about Runcie’s fate before he announced he was willing to discuss a path to a mutual agreement of separation.

Sarah Leonardi, the District 3 school board member, talks about the Tuesday workshop on Wednesday. (Copyright 2020 by WPLG - All rights reserved.)

Leonardi was the first to suggest a suspension for both Runcie and Barbara Myrick, Broward County Public Schools’ top lawyer.

“This was a distraction from focusing on our students and our educators,” Leonardi said on Wednesday.

The list of school board members who said they weren’t ready to watch Runcie go without due process for his pending criminal case included Ann Murray, the District 1 member; Donna P. Korn, the seat 8 countywide at-large member; and Patricia Good, the District 2 member.

“I didn’t know that we would ... be saying goodbye,” said Nora Rupert, the District 7 member, during the workshop.

Superintendent Robert Runcie announced his willingness to step down during a school board workshop on Tuesday in Fort Lauderdale.

Prosecutors said Runcie’s case stems from his testimony to a state grand jury about alleged communication with witnesses in a pending public corruption case. Anthony Hunter, BCPS’s former chief information officer, was accused of steering BCPS business to a generous friend. He was arrested on Jan. 12.

Runcie and Myrick were preparing to negotiate mutual separation deals that the school board members will later review and vote on.

Osgood was preparing to have an item ready for the 11 a.m. school board meeting on Thursday.

“The item on Thursday will allow us to move the district forward,” Osgood said during the Tuesday workshop, later adding “Not one individual can make decisions on behalf of the board, so once we come to Thursday and then you give me the authority to go and do the negotiations.”

Osgood said during the negotiations she and attorneys will “craft something with some type of legal help” and come back to the school board so the members can make amends and make decisions as a body.

“We will make it an action item on Thursday. That action item will give the chair the capacity to go and negotiate and work out the final terms to bring to you in a subsequent board meeting that we can then vote on,” Osgood said.

The school board will set the parameters and vote, if necessary during a future special school board meeting, Osgood said. Laurie Rich Levinson, the District 6 school board member and vice-chair, said she supported the chair. Jeffrey Moquin, the chief of staff at BCPS, said the board will also have to decide how to find Runcie’s replacement.

Related statement

The school board released this statement on Wednesday afternoon:

During Tuesday’s, April 27, School Board Workshop, Superintendent Robert W. Runcie and General Counsel Barbara Myrick said they are willing to discuss paths to mutual agreements of separation.

At tomorrow’s, Thursday, April 29, Special School Board Meeting, the Board will be asked to authorize the Chair, assisted by appropriate legal counsel, to meet with the Superintendent and General Counsel and their respective representatives to explore mutual agreements for separation. If and when tentative agreements are reached, they will then be brought to a public School Board Meeting for discussion and approval.

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About the Authors:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba. 

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.