What to Know
- Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie and the district's top lawyer offered to resign Tuesday night
- Runcie has faced continuing criticism over the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and a perjury charge from a statewide grand jury
- The school board will meet Thursday to discuss their separation agreements and decide who will lead the district
The South Florida superintendent overseeing Broward County schools has offered to resign amid continuing criticism over the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and a perjury charge from a statewide grand jury.
Robert Runcie’s offer late Tuesday came hours after he released a video statement saying he would be cleared of the perjury charge and would not step down. The district’s top lawyer also resigned on Tuesday night. Both were indicted by a grand jury last week.
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In new paperwork filed Wednesday, Runcie pleaded not guilty to the charge and requested a trial by jury. He also filed a motion to dismiss the case, calling it "vague, indefinite and uncertain as to embarrass and hinder the defendant in the preparation of defendant's defense and in the event of conviction or acquittal, would subject the defendant to multiple trials on the same circumstances."
Runcie, 59, led the nation’s sixth largest school district for nearly 10 years and had been lauded for closing the achievement gap between white and minority students. He had also been named superintendent of the year multiple times by both state and national organizations.
But the Valentine’s Day shooting at Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland in 2018 ultimately led to his downfall. Seventeen people were killed, and the parent of one victim and the wife of another now serve on the school board.
Board member Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter Alyssa was killed, has been one of Runcie's toughest critics, asking the board to fire him in 2019. That vote failed 6-3.
"We need strong leadership, terminating now without cause gives us time before the next school year to do a national search for a new superintendent," Alhadeff said.
“I know you’ve been in enormous amounts of pain that none of us can ever imagine,” Runcie told Alhadeff on Tuesday night. “I guess I’m part of the source of that in some ways. If it’s going to give you the peace you’re looking for, I will step aside.”
A grand jury, originally impaneled to review school safety after Parkland, expanded its reach and examined a $17 million technology deal, leading to the indictment of former district administrator Tony Hunter on charges of bribery and bid tampering, the South Florida SunSentinel reported. Contracts for interactive flat screen TVs went to a friend and future boss of Hunter who had sold him cars and a house at a discount.
Runcie was accused of committing perjury while testifying about the technology deal.
The video statement released by the superintendent earlier Tuesday repeated a suggestion by his attorney that politics was behind the indictment and he would be vindicated. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis came into office pledging to hold Runcie accountable for the Parkland shooting. DeSantis ordered the grand jury that eventually indicted him.
Even so, Runcie told the board Tuesday night that he was ready to step down after a majority of members said they wanted to either place him on leave or 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.”
Barbara Myrick, who was arrested on a felony charge of illegally disclosing information from the grand jury, offered to resign as well.
The board will meet Thursday to discuss their separation agreements and decide who will lead the district. Runcie makes $356,000 a year and would be entitled to $137,000 in severance. Myrick, who is paid $220,000 a year, would earn $84,615 in severance.
Runcie's lawyer, Johnny McCray, told the SunSentinel his client's resignation was not part of a negotiation to resolve the criminal charge.
“We intend to continue fighting these charges, and as he said earlier today, he will be vindicated," McCray said.
The school district is expected to continue to pay the legal fees for Runcie and Myrick. If they're convicted, they would be expected to repay the district, said Marylin Batista, a district lawyer.
“Traditionally the district has always paid for representatives of school district employees who’ve been charged with criminal or civil processes” when it’s related to their jobs, Batista said.
Board member Laurie Rich Levinson, an ally of both Runcie and Myrick, said she was saddened by their offers.
“What happened here has nothing to do with our children, but Mr. Runcie is not putting himself above the needs of our children,” she said.
Board member Debra Hixon, whose husband Chris died at Parkland, said she has never blamed Runcie or the district for the shooting.
“My issue is what happened after,” she said.
She tearfully urged a fractured board, often divided 5-4 on issues surrounding Runcie, to come together. “We can’t continue to be divisive and let it be about Feb. 14,” Hixon said.
School Board Chair Dr. Rosalind Osgood said that while she understands the pain of the Parkland families, Runcie has made huge improvements to the district.
"You know when I hear people talk about accountability now that Mr. Runcie’s gone, I think the person that went in there with that gun and shot up the school is the person we all need to hold accountable," Osgood said.
Editor's Note: A previous headline for this article said Runcie had resigned.