School Board Members: Please tell the Emperor he hasn’t got any clothes on
From the Westside Gazette Editorial Board (WEB)
The leadership of the new Superintendent, Mr. Runcie reminds me of an old story by Hans Christian Andersen: An emperor hires two tailors who promise to make him a set of remarkable new clothes that will be invisible to anyone who is either incompetent or stupid. When the emperor goes to see his new clothes, he sees nothing at all — for the tailors are swindlers and there aren’t any clothes. Afraid of being judged in-competent or stupid, the emperor pretends to be delighted with the new clothes and “wears” them in a grand parade through the town. Everyone else also pretends to see them, until a child yells out, “He hasn’t got any clothes on!” In this context, the metaphor involves a situation wherein the overwhelming (usually un-empowered) majority of observers willingly share in a collective ignorance of an obvious fact, despite individually recognizing the absurdity.
The School Board’s selection of former businessman Robert Runcie as Broward’s next school superintendent was based primarily on his business savvy and ability to improve technology and transportation in Chicago’s public schools. Out of the starting blocks, he has made a mockery of himself and the members of the School Board.
Mr. Runcie presented to School Board members a proposed budgetary cost savings of $14 million through an overhaul in the transportation department by the reconfiguration of bus routes to save fuel, and a reduction in the allowable amount of overtime. This supposed cost savings was presented to the public with much fanfare and applause at a press conference held at the Southwest Transportation Terminal.
One of the essential areas of Mr. Runcie’s expertise is handling transportation matters and streamlining services to ensure a cost savings to the District. When the Superintendent presented these cost savings in a Budget Workshop, his Director of transportation, Mr. Chester Tindall clearly stated to board members, “there will be no adverse impact to the quality service the district provides to our parents.”
The Transportation Department is in total chaos and is completely mismanaged. Parents are still waiting on bus information for their child(ren), bus drivers don’t have complete routes and now the Superintendent stated at a press conference that he needs to hire more drivers. The Superintendent says he plans to fix the woes of transportation department. Mr. Superintendent, you can fix the transportation woes by firing Chester Tindall.
School Board members have heard throughout the spring at numerous Board meetings complaints about the management style of Mr. Tindall. Unfortunately it has fallen on deaf ears and now the parents and students are victims of this travesty. No one deserves to work in an environment where there is blatant disrespect and mistreatment. Mr. Tindall was given free reign since he was hired by the Superintendent. Board members should have held Mr. Runcie more accountable for addressing the concerns of staff and union representatives in the Transportation Department. The task of turning a-round the transportation department was the first charge for the newly appointed Superintendent and it has been an utter and complete catastrophe.
Mr. Runcie was also tasked with increasing communication to help improve the District’s image. The Superintendent hired the new Public Information Officer, Tracy Clark, from the Chicago Public Schools. Throughout this entire transportation debauchery, the Communication’s Department has been re-active instead of pro-active. The District has received more negative press related to this transportation nightmare to the extent it has overshadowed the positive press.
Much of the cost savings from the $14 million transportation overall, according to the Superintendent, was to bring back specials and hire more teachers to assist the district with making class size. It is our understanding that the District is currently 16 percent in compliance with class size and needs an additional $62 million in order to meet the class size requirement.
The Superintendent proposed to the Board the reorganization of fiscal operations by proposing a Business Center. This Business Center would have resulted in the layoffs of over 250 Bookkeepers and Budget keepers at numerous schools. The Board should be commended for bringing an immediate arrest to this recommendation. Although the Business Center model is currently being navigated at a small number of district schools, no clear procedures have been finalized nor instituted. Another possible catastrophe has temporarily been averted, however Board Members you need regular updates on this endeavor and continue to ask the tough questions. If you’re not monitoring this closely and paying attention this may come back to bite you on that which you sit and not the seat either.
Board Members, how long will you continue to allow the Superintendent to parade around Broward naked and pretend that he’s wearing clothes? Your constituents have entrusted you to ask the tough questions and hold him accountable. You don’t need to be afraid and fear being judged at the polls. As we prepare for the run-off elections, you need to hold him accountable. That’s why we elected you!