The Broward County School Board narrowly approved a separation agreement with Superintendent Robert Runcie.
The board approved the deal, worth nearly $755,000, with a 5-4 vote Tuesday.
Runcie gets 20 weeks of severance pay plus 90 days' notice of resignation salary, plus accrued vacation days and sick days, medical benefits and more. Initially, the Board offered 30 days instead of the 90 in his contract.
Board member Sarah Leonardi voted against the agreement. She and other dissenters had concerns with paying for Runcie's legal fees and other contributions.
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"It is certainly a generous agreement in terms of separation for the superintendent," Leonardi said.
School board member Debbi Hixon, whose husband, athletic director Chris Hixon, was killed in the 2018 Parkland school shooting, said supporters seemed to be “skirting around” the fact Runcie is leaving voluntarily rather than accept a suspension until his criminal case is resolved..
"To me, there was no middle ground there, we gave him everything he was asking for," said Hixon.
The severance is about $300,000 less than Runcie could have received. Depending on how his contract is interpreted, the Board could’ve been on the hook to contribute about $400,000 to Runcie’s retirement fund. Instead, Runcie’s side compromised and agreed to the minimum amount of $80,000.
“If we had continued to 2023, which was the first offer of Mr. Runcie’s attorney yesterday, we would’ve been looking at about $2 million, so I’m very comfortable of where we ended up at," school board chair Dr. Rosalind Osgood said.
Runcie's supporters on the board said he earned the severance.
"The performance since Mr. Runcie arrived in 2011 educationally has drastically changed in this district, and I believe we owe it to him and the leadership he’s provided to treat him with the dignity he deserves," Laurie Rich Levinson said.
Runcie offered his resignation after a grand jury investigating the circumstances surrounding the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School indicted him on a perjury charge last month.
Runcie has overseen the district, which is the nation's sixth largest public school district, for nearly 10 years. He offered to step down after he vowed in a video statement that he would be vindicated of the perjury charges that grand jurors leveled against him.
Two issues the statewide grand jury investigated are whether Broward County school officials misappropriated millions of dollars from a bond measure partially aimed at improving campus safety and whether officials intentionally underreported on-campus crimes committed by students. The grand jury concluded its work last month, but its final report has not been released.
Since the shooting, Runcie and Broward County district administrators have been accused by critics of lying about school crime rates and discipline problems in official reports. For example, Stoneman Douglas reported zero incidents of bullying among its 3,200 students between 2014 and 2017 and three incidents of vandalism.
Runcie was arrested after grand jurors said he lied in an official proceeding, which is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.