After almost a decade as head of one of the largest school districts in the United States, Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie has decided to step down.
His resignation came on Tuesday, April 27, at a tearful Broward County school board meeting, amid criticism over a perjury charge.
Runcie’s resignation came hours after he released a video statement saying he would be vindicated of the perjury charge and would not step down. The district’s top lawyer, Barbara Myrick, also resigned on Tuesday night. Both were arrested last week after being indicted by a grand jury.
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 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School 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.
“I have had enough,” Alhadeff said about her desire to terminate Runcie without cause and start a national search for a new superintendent.
“I know you’ve been in enormous amounts of pain that none of us can ever imagine,” Runcie responded to Alhadeff. “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.
According to official court documents, the Jamaican-born Superintendent allegedly contacted witnesses in the case and then lied on the stand when asked if he spoke to anyone. A prosecutor said that Runcie contacted one or more witnesses on March 29th, the day before the hearing.
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.
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, decided to resign as well.
The board will meet Thursday to discuss their separation agreements and decide who will lead the district.
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.”
Board member Laurie Rich Levinson, an ally of both Runcie and Myrick, said she was saddened by their resignations.
“What happened here has nothing to do with our children, but Mr. Robert 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.
Runcie’s arraignment is set for May 12. His attorneys filed a motion last week to dismiss the charge. If convicted of perjury, Robert Runcie faces up to five years in prison.