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In tearful meeting, Runcie offers to step down to give Parkland victims’ relatives ‘peace’

School board to define Runcie’s departure on Thursday

Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said he will step down from his position.
Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said he will step down from his position.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie told the members of the School Board of Broward County on Tuesday that he is agreeing to negotiate the terms of his separation from the district.

Before Runcie spoke, Lori Alhadeff, District 4 school board member, said the school board needs to address the “lack of strong leadership” and “mismanagement” of public funds.

“I have had enough,” Alhadeff said about her desire to terminate Runcie without cause and start a national search for a new superintendent.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement officers arrested Runcie on Wednesday. State prosecutors are charging him with perjury after he allegedly lied to a grand jury about his communication with witnesses in a pending public corruption case.

During his statement at the workshop, Runcie said the Feb. 14, 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School “changed a lot.” He said he has “tried to do everything” and “nothing seems to change.”

Runcie told Alhadeff, whose 14-year-old daughter Alyssa was killed in MSD classroom 1216, that he hopes his termination will bring her and other Parkland parents peace.

“I am immensely sorry for your loss,” Runcie said to Alhadeff. “I love you and hope that your future is better.”

Broward County's education leader said he wants peace for the Parkland victims and will agree to step aside if the school board finds that best for the students following his perjury charge.
Broward County's education leader said he wants peace for the Parkland victims and will agree to step aside if the school board finds that best for the students following his perjury charge.

Debra Hixon, the seat 9 county-wide school board member, said Runcie deserves due process. Before Runcie’s statement, she had said she wanted to look into the possibility of a suspension to avoid distractions.

“This is not for me about Feb. 14 ... We can’t be going back to that day. It’s so hard,” Hixon said through tears after Runcie’s statement. Her husband, Chris Hixon, was one of the 17 victims of the MSD massacre.

Patricia Good, the District 2 school board member, was also in tears. She said she supports Rosalind Osgood, the District 5 school board member, to work out a deal with Runcie.

Osgood, the chair, said she supports “some type” of mutual agreement with Runcie. She said she is willing within legal parameters to come back “with something” on Thursday.

“Maybe a conversation through legal parameters ... can allow us to have an item on Thursday and clearly as a board, you can amend, you can change whatever you don’t want in that item,” Osgood said.

Before Runcie’s statement, Donna P. Korn, the seat 8 countywide school board member, said that reassigning Runcie would not be appropriate. She had supported a suspension with pay.

“I do not believe that a termination does afford him due process,” Korn said.

Sarah Leonardi, the District 3 school board member, and Nora Rupert, the District 7 school board member, said it wasn’t fair to expect Runcie to lead the school district while he was having to defend himself.

Before Runcie’s statement, Alhadeff took issue with the school district having to cover Runcie’s legal expenses as he faces the state’s perjury charge.

Florida law provides that the district has the option not to pay Runcie’s defense fees, but if he is found not guilty the district will have to reimburse him, according to Jeffrey Moquin, the school board’s chief of staff.

Barbara Myrick, Broward schools’ top lawyer, said the district is paying for one attorney who represented Runcie regarding his testimony to the grand jury.

Myrick is also facing a charge for allegedly sharing information from the grand jury. During the meeting, Myrick said traditionally the district pays for legal representation of district employees.

“I too cannot continue under the scrutiny,” Myrick said adding “it’s hard to operate under that.”

Myrick said she also wants to discuss a mutual separation agreement. Myrick worked for the district for nearly six years and Runcie served as superintendent for nearly a decade.

“My admiration and commitment to this district has come in great part because of the work that Mr. Runcie has done,” Myrick said.

Watch the meeting


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.