Embattled Florida school superintendent decides to resign

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A South Florida school superintendent resigned Tuesday night time amid criticism over a mass taking pictures at a excessive school in 2018 and extra lately due to a perjury cost from a statewide grand jury.

Robert Runcie’s resignation got here hours after he launched a video assertion saying he could be vindicated of the perjury cost and wouldn’t step down. The district’s high lawyer additionally resigned on Tuesday night time. Both had been arrested final week after being indicted by a grand jury.

Runcie, 59, led the nation’s sixth largest school district for practically 10 years and had been lauded for closing the achievement hole between white and minority college students. He had additionally been named superintendent of the year a number of instances by each state and nationwide organizations.

But the Valentine’s Day taking pictures at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland in 2018 in the end led to his downfall. Seventeen folks had been killed, and the guardian of 1 sufferer and the spouse of one other now serve on the school board.

Board member Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter Alyssa was killed, has been one among Runcie’s hardest critics, asking the board to fireplace him in 2019. That vote failed 6-3.

“I know you’ve been in enormous amounts of pain that none of us can ever imagine,” Runcie advised Alhadeff on Tuesday night time. “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, initially impaneled to evaluate school security after Parkland, expanded its attain and examined a $17 million technology deal, main to the indictment of former district administrator Tony Hunter on prices of bribery and bid tampering, the South Florida SunSentinel reported. Contracts for interactive flat display TVs went to a good friend and future boss of Hunter who had bought him vehicles and a home at a reduction.

Runcie was accused of committing perjury whereas testifying concerning the technology deal.

The video assertion launched by the superintendent earlier Tuesday repeated a suggestion by his lawyer that politics was behind the indictment and he could be vindicated. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis got here into office pledging to maintain Runcie accountable for the Parkland taking pictures. DeSantis ordered the grand jury that ultimately indicted him.

Even so, Runcie advised the board Tuesday night time that he was prepared to step down after a majority of members stated they needed to both place him on go away or fireplace him.

“I cannot put myself above the needs of our district,” he stated. “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 cost of illegally disclosing data from the grand jury, determined resign as nicely.

The board will meet Thursday to talk about their separation agreements and determine who will lead the district. Runcie makes $356,000 a year and could be entitled to $137,000 in severance. Myrick, who’s paid $220,000 a year, would earn $84,615 in severance.

Runcie’s lawyer, Johnny McCray, advised the SunSentinel his consumer’s resignation was not a part of a negotiation to resolve the felony cost.

“We intend to continue fighting these charges, and as he said earlier today, he will be vindicated.”

The school district is predicted to proceed to pay the authorized charges for Runcie and Myrick. If they’re convicted, they’d be anticipated to repay the district, stated 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 associated to their jobs, Batista stated.

Board member Laurie Rich Levinson, an ally of each Runcie and Myrick, stated she was saddened by their resignations.

“What happened here has nothing to do with our children, but Mr. Runcie is not putting himself above the needs of our children,” she stated.

Board member Debra Hixon, whose husband Chris died at Parkland, she she has by no means blamed Runcie or the district for the taking pictures.

“My issue is what happened after,” she stated.

She tearfully urged a fractured board, typically divided 5-4 on points surrounding Runcie, to come collectively. “We can’t continue to be divisive and let it be about Feb. 14,” Hixon stated.

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