BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA — Following a meeting with school district leaders to review the findings of a grand jury report, Superintendent Vickie Cartwright received a letter from Florida’s Department of Education.
In the letter, Tim Hay, director of the Safe Schools office, insisted that the school district cut all ties with district employees whose “failed decisions on school safety” affected students and teachers in Broward County.
The prior school superintendent, Robert Runcie, was indicted by the grand jury for perjury. Runcie failed to manage a school safety and construction smart bond of $800 million. In addition, the report states that Runcie lied to the School Board and the public.
FAILED ON SCHOOL SAFETY
“Before our collective work can truly and credibly ever demonstrate that Broward County Public Schools has seriously embraced safer schools for the district’s students and faculty, issues remain that require your immediate attention,” wrote Hay. “Specifically, we have found the district still has employed district officials from the previous administration who guided failed decisions on school safety,” he added.
The letter identifies specific members of the previous superintendent’s team and other staff explicitly named in the grand jury report, including the procurement staff for the SMART program.
Mary Coker, named in the letter, and the head of the district’s procurement department, was a witness at the grand jury. She cooperated with FDLE, leading to the indictments of Runcie and the district’s general counsel Barbara Myrick.
“HAVE NOT TAKEN OWNERSHIP”
“These remaining district officials have not taken ownership of their barefaced failures and continue to perpetuate an ‘it is what it is’ philosophy that was identified in the Grand Jury report,” Hay wrote, referring to District Chief of Staff Jeff Moquin.
Judith Marte, the previous Chief Financial Officer who resigned, was also named in the grand jury report. Marte misled the school board when she said that no additional tax burden would be required on bond work, then took out loans to complete the job, according to the report.
Director of climate and diversity, David Watkins, was remarkable to the grand jury for one thing: “his utter inability to directly answer the most basic of questions,” according to the report.
NO DIRECT AUTHORITY
Although Hay does not have the direct authority to fire the individuals named in the letter, the actions of the school board members are inexcusable, and they show a pattern of unacceptable behavior, including fraud and mismanagement across the school district, according to a statement by the governor’s office.
On August 26, Governor Ron DeSantis suspended four of the Broward County school board members: Patricia Good, Donna Korn, Ann Murray, and Laurie Rich Levinson, from office due to “incompetence, neglect of duty, and misuse of authority,” The Florida Standard Reported.
Kevin Tynan, Manuel “Nandy” A. Serrano, Torey Alston, and Ryan Reiter replaced the four board members in a special meeting on Tuesday, August 30.