Broward Schools Chief Runcie Gets Mediocre Review from Board

Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie sits during a meeting of the Broward County School Board, Tuesday, March 5, 2019, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The board is meeting to vote on whether or not to terminate the contract of Runcie over issues surrounding the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre last year. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

A divided Broward County School Board last week gave Superintendent Robert Runcie the worst evaluation of his time in the position, with four members rating him as either “awful” or “mediocre,” while the other three members gave him top marks.

Overall, Runcie received a rating of 2.8 out of 4 points. He also received his first-ever “unsatisfactory” ratings, which is the lowest possible mark, in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting.

Runcie, who has been with the district since 2011, also received his highest marks in the area of student achievement, as the district has made some academic gains in recent years.

However, Board members remain divided about his overall leadership. Some members say Runcie has put a renewed focus on safety and security, and that he led a successful referendum effort last year to get raises for teachers.

Other members argue there is high turnover among administrative staff, in addition to slow progress on an $800 million bond to renovate old schools. Five years after the referendum passed, three out of 233 schools have been completed.

According to Board member Rosalind Osgood, “Public trust is one of Mr. Runcie’s strengths. Under Mr. Runcie’s leadership, the district has passed two referendum items. Members of the community have voiced their support for Mr. Runcie’s leadership through press conferences, print media and during public speaking time at school board meetings.”

On the other hand, Board member Nora Rupert says, “Superintendent Runcie still struggles to promote the core mission of the Broward County School Board amidst the continued decline of public trust, who doubts that he can finish the [$800 million bond] in a timely fashion. and deploy the [2018] referendum as promised.”

Last March, new Board member Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter was killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High shooting, asked the Board to fire Runcie. That effort failed 6 to 3, with Rupert and Board member Robin Bartleman siding with Alhadeff.

Alhadeff gave Runcie an overall score of 1.4 out of 4, or “unsatisfactory,” while Rupert marked Runcie as “unsatisfactory” in leadership and management, and gave him an overall score of 1.85, or “needs improvement.”

Bartleman gave him an overall score of 2.25, or “needs improvement.” Heather Brinkworth, who voted against firing Runcie, gave him a 2.6, which translates to a “low effective” rating.

She marked him below average in three out of four categories — high-quality instruction, continuous improvement and effective communications — but said he was effective in leadership and management.

Donna Korn rated him 3.38 and Patti Good 3.33, which are both effective.

Three School Board members gave him the top score of highly effective: Laurie Rich Levinson (3.5), Ann Murray (3.5) and Rosalind Osgood (3.45).

Meanwhile, Runcie gave himself a score of 3.65.

He wrote, “If there is one word that summarizes our last year, it is communication. As our district continues to move from response to recovery and from reactive to proactive following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School tragedy, continuous and seamless communication to all stakeholders has remained essential.”

However, five out of nine Board members gave him low marks on communications, and none of them rated him highly effective in this area.

They say departments do not communicate with each other, Runcie does not communicate with the board, and parents find the district’s website difficult to navigate.

According to Alhadeff, “To say that the word ‘communication’ summarizes the 2018-2019 school year and that there was ‘seamless communication’ to all stakeholders being essential is a fabrication of the truth.”

Bartleman says the district’s communications office “appears to be more focused on representing the superintendent as an individual, as opposed to the district as a whole. Press releases and social media links consistently have his image as opposed to students, teachers, staff, or even our logo.”

Runcie fared better in the categories of continuous improvement and high-quality instruction, as several board members state that no schools in the district were rated “F.” They also note that Broward barely missed receiving an “A” from the state, and that graduation rates have improved.