Grand jury recommends dumping four current Broward School Board members

A much-anticipated grand jury report into the Broward District School Board and the Parkland shooting was released on Friday. It recommended that Gov. Ron DeSantis remove five of its members for “deceit, malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty and incompetence.”

 

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Commissioned by DeSantis in the aftermath of the Parkland school shooting, the 2022 report focused on five school board members because they had been supporters of former superintendent Robert Runcie. The Grand jury indicted Runcie on a perjury charge in 2021, and the grand jury’s report on his conduct was highly critical.

“It should be obvious that …. attempts to hold the Superintendent and his District staff accountable have been routinely and openly thwarted by the majority of the Board, the very same majority we seek to remove from office,”

The 2022 report initially focused on security failings, including insufficient training for school safety officers and wasting nearly $80,000 to produce them due to poor management. However, as the Grand Jury uncovered more information, the investigations quickly shifted focus to corruption and mismanagement.

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The primary example is the slow progress of an 800 million dollar bond passed in 2014 meant to renovate schools. The grand jury reported in 2020 that the bond appeared to have been “hijacked,” and even if it hadn’t, the excessively slow turnaround indicated general incompetence. The 2022 report estimated that the projects initially intended for the bond will now cost roughly 1.4 billion to build and will be completed in 2025, nearly doubling the initial cost.

The report identified similar management issues with the county’s SMART program. The program will cost roughly 1.5 billion dollars, draining about 50% more than the intended 1 billion from taxpayers’ wallets. The jury characterized the initial estimates as nothing more than “wishcasting.” Today, no construction on the SMART program has even started.

“Nevertheless, whether BCPS officials knew back in 2014 that their numbers were inaccurate, the result today is the same: The Board and the District have misamanged the SMART program.”

The report ultimately recommended DeSantis remove the five board members, but DeSantis has not done so yet. Reactions to the recommendation are generally positive.

But some have used the opportunity to continue to attack DeSantis for (potentially) using his power.

One of the five school board members, Rosalin Osgood,  has left the board and is now a state senator. Two others do not plan on running for re-election. The Grand Jury did not indict any member for any crimes, and it’s unclear if the three members mentioned above will suffer any penalties for their misconduct.


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