Putting Education Reform To The Test

Superintendent Hopes to Create “A Very Different District”


Courtesy of Broward County Public School

Robert Runcie starts his first full school year as the Broward County School District Superintendent.

Robert Runcie began his first full year on the job as head of Broward County Schools.

The district has been rebounding from School Board member arrests and a statewide Grand Jury report that called the Board inept and corrupted by contractors and lobbyists.

The former chief of staff for the Chicago Board of Education says the scope of  job in Broward is similar to that of the Windy City.

Runcie spoke with WLRN’s Phil Latzman about restoring confidence in Broward’s scandal-ridden school system.

Q: Superintendent Runcie, of no fault of your own you’ve come in to a school system wracked with scandal in recent years. Two members of the school board were arrested on bribery charges. There was a very harsh grand jury report severely criticizing the district’s practices. These are problems you inherited, but do you feel you have to restore faith in Broward Schools?

A: We absolutely have to work very diligently to restore public trust and confidence in the institution. 

I would say that we have a relatively new board, they’re committed to focusing on student achievement and making sure we do the right thing. It’s been a pleasure working with them so far and I think we will be headed in the right direction as far as doing what’s right for our kids.

Yeah, we’ve had operational issues. I think we’ve been demonstrating to the public that we are not shy about addressing those problems and ensuring that we are running our place as efficiently as possible, and that taxpayer investments in public education are going to get the best return possible.

Q: Whenever I’ve talked in the past with a Broward Schools official, superintendent, school board member or teacher there were always complaints about state funding, standardized testing. How does that compare to what you used to deal with in Illinois?

A: Well, I’ll tell you this, Chicago in particular has a very serious problem right now with their pension issues. Their pension obligations are huge, and they are anticipating having a billion dollar deficit next year. We are no where near that situation in Broward.

So, all problems and issues are local and they’re relative. I recognize that we have challenges but they’re not insurmountable.

We have a great community here, people value education. I think they will continue to invest in the future of their children in this county and the greatest economic development thing you can do is to have great schools.

Q: It’s only been 11 months that you’ve been picked for the job. It seems like we’re still in the honeymoon period as far as the school board is concerned. It’s natural that there’s going to be some friction between a superintendent and a school board somewhere along the line. So far though, so good?

A: Well, you know what–the school board and the superintendent work together as a team. And when you work together as a team you should challenge each other, you should push each other to get better. So, I don’t look at that as friction, as more of a healthy organization. How we manage that process determines how successful we’ll be in the future. But I think right now we’re trying to essentially stay focused.

I believe that if we stay focused and have a relentless conversation in this district about continuing to improve educational outcome for kids, rather that what happens today [when] we spent 80 to 90 percent of our conversation talking about operational issues, talking about historical problems that have occurred in the district. No. We need to look forward and start focusing on our kids, focusing on what’s in their best interest. If we do that we’ll just be a very different district then we are today.


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