Broward County voters will decide in November whether to approve an $800 million bond issue earmarked for public school renovations and technology upgrades. It would cost each homeowner about $50 dollars a year, which the superintendent says is a wise investment in the county’s future.
“Our entire community depends on this, property values, our quality of life, all connect very intimately with the quality of our schools, this is an investment in our kids,” said Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie.
NBC 6’s Ari Odzer took a tour of what might be the poster-child school to showcase how badly some schools have deteriorated.
“What you’re seeing is a day when it rains here at Northeast High School, and this wasn’t even one of the heavier rains, this is just a day that it rained,” said Principal Jonathan Williams, showing a video his staff made.
When it rains, it pours at Northeast High School in Oakland Park. Administrators shot the video last Friday that shows hallways flooded five inches deep, and rain dripping onto the basketball court, which isn’t surprising since the home of the Hurricanes has been covered by a tarp since Hurricane Wilma in 2005.
“I can’t imagine it being much worse. I think my frustration with it is public education is supposed to be the great equalizer,” said Williams.
Northeast has 1,800 students using a building which Williams says should’ve been torn down and replaced years ago.
“I don’t think the children should have to come to school and worry about the condition of the facility. They should be able to just concentrate on learning,” the veteran educator said.
The roof leaks in dozens of places, the floors are warping, there’s exposed wiring, some days there’s no air conditioning, the locker room doesn’t have air conditioning at all. The place is a mess.
“It’s frustrating and the children deserve better,” Williams says. “We spend so much time on these other issues, facilities issues, that it takes away from what should be going on in the classrooms.”
They’re using outdated, eight-year-old computers, and only 10 classrooms have smartboards. Williams says Northeast is a perfect example of why voters should pass the school bond issue.
But despite the condition of Northeast High, and dozens more in similar shape, it won’t be enough to persuade some voters because the Broward School District has a history of wasting money on construction projects. In 2011, under the previous administration, two school board members went to jail for corruption involving the building of new schools.
“We’ve made a tremendous amount of reforms to ensure that when we get these dollars, we’re gonna execute them well,” Runcie said, pointing out that if the bond issue is passed, a civilian oversight board will be appointed to keep an eye on where the money is spent.
Runcie also promises complete transparency, saying the public will be able to see exactly where every dollar is going. Williams said it’s time to get over the past and invest in our kids.
“We’re inheriting a bad situation, but that doesn’t change the fact that children need to be educated. It doesn’t change the fact that investing, or making a decision that dollars should be spent on children will definitely have a positive impact on their future,” the principal said.
And they shouldn’t have to slosh through a flood to get to class.