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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Robert Runcie agreed Tuesday to step down as superintendent of Broward County Public Schools.
The announcement came after it was clear a majority of School Board members didn’t want him staying on while he resolves a perjury case against him. Some board members wanted to put him on paid leave. Others wanted to fire him.
“I cannot put myself above the needs of our district” he said.
“We’re unfortunately in a climate where forgiveness, compassion and love have far too often taken a back seat to grievance anger and hate,” he said. “This is not an environment.”
General Counsel Barbara Myrick also said she would like to step down. Both will negotiate their exits with the school board chairwoman.
“I can’t continue in an environment where every time we have a board meeting, I have a board member sending me a memo about all the mistakes I’ve made,” she said, referring to critic Lori Alhadeff, who has given her unsatisfactory evaluations.
The news saddened board member Laurie Rich Levinson, a strong ally to both.
“It’s a very sad day for Broward County Public Schools,” she said. “What happened here has nothing to do with our children, but Mr. Runcie is not putting himself above the needs of our children.”
Another meeting is scheduled Thursday, when the board plans to take any formal action.
The news brought tears in the boardroom.
“Mr. Runcie, you have changed life and after life, and for that I thank for those children,” Board member Donna Korn said. “You have been a beacon. You’ll be missed.”
Most of the 20 speakers who attended also supported Runcie.
The Rev. C.E. Glover of Mouth Bethel Ministries in Fort Lauderdale said, “an indictment is not proof of guilt ... I challenge the School Board not to bow down to political pressure and personal dislikes for our superintendent in order to inflict punitive measures against him without having due process.”
A school district portal has received about 65 comments from the public regarding today’s meeting. The comments ran 3 to 1 in favor of removing Runcie temporarily or permanently. Eight people wrote that they wanted Myrick removed, with none explicitly stating support for her.
Natasha Gonell of Pembroke Pines said Runcie’s arrest set a bad example for students like her 13-year-old son. She recommended the board fire him.
“I think it’s very sad that he’s had to see his superintendent’s mugshot all over the news. When he asked why, I explained that his superintendent was arrested for perjury and discussed perjury with him,” she said. “My son and all of the students of Broward County schools deserve a superintendent they can look up to. Guilty or not, the arrest and everything being said on the news about it is not going to just go away.”
Parkland parent Shelly Shoulders said she also wanted Runcie removed.
“He has shown negligence pertaining to mismanaged funds and even more importantly has failed when it comes to keeping our children safe,” Shoulders wrote. “He has proved time and time again that he is not qualified for the job. Please take this opportunity to prove to the community that the safety and education of our children is your main priority.”
Others wanted Runcie to stay, saying he was the victim of a politically motivated witch hunt. They say Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, created the grand jury in hopes of finding a way to blame Runcie for the Parkland shooting Although Parkland was the impetus of the grand jury, Runcie and Myers are charged in connection with the Hunter case, which resulted from the same grand jury.
Supporters like Miramar resident Dina Bertrand say Runcie has done a great job.
“I have witnessed first-hand his dedication and hard work for our children,” wrote Bertrand, whose grandchildren attend Broward schools. “I believe that it would be a shame to disrupt the education of our children. Superintendent Robert Runcie has made tremendous improvements to our school system. Please, please retain his services.”
Some supporters who spoke at a rally for Runcie on Friday also submitted comments, including County Commissioner Dale Holness; Bob Swindell, CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance; and Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam.
The Broward County Council of PTAs also issued a statement in support of Runcie.
“As an association we have flourished with the support of the superintendent and the school board, and we were very heartbroken to hear of his arrest,” the statement said. “We will not rush to judgment and wait for all the facts regarding these charges to be disclosed by official sources. ... As we continue to support Superintendent Robert Runcie, we also will focus on supporting our teachers and students during this time.”
Both Runcie and Myrick have been working, according to a statement from the office of Chief Communications Officer Kathy Koch. The district declined to say whether the two would attend the meeting. Both are attending academic workshops before the board discussion.