First thought to cost $4 million, needed repairs and construction at Margate Elementary school have skyrocketed to $12 million. While funds for repairs originate in the $800 million school bond passed by voters in 2014, the school will wait another year and a half for implementation, said one Margate official.
The Director of School Bond oversight, Frank Girardi, attended a meeting for parents at Margate elementary school Friday evening to get a feel of what type of improvements were preferred. In attendance were Margate elected officials: Mayor, Anthony Caggiano; Vice Mayor, Tommy Ruzzano; and Commissioners Arlene Schwartz and Joanne Simone. Joining the group city engineer for Margate Sierra Marrero.
The context of the meeting revealed a deeply troubled Broward County School Board (BCSB) headed by Superintendent Robert Runcie, who may come under Grand Jury Investigation called for by Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis as a result of the 2018 Valentines’ Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
Runcie survived a recent vote (6-3) of BCSB to fire him from leadership, despite showing disdain for accepting responsibility for necessary reforms to school safety. He was reported to evade meetings with Marjory Stoneman Douglas parents who suffered the deaths of their children. He also has reportedly run the School Board in an undemocratic manner, bringing in cronies from his previous job in Chicago, including one who was audited for being involved in hundreds of millions of dollars in cost over runs for projects in the Windy City. Moreover, newly elected School Board member Lori Alhadeff, who lost her daughter in the Parkland school shooting has been treated in a contemptuous manner by Runcie, along with school board attorney, Barbara Myrick, and select school board members.
Unfortunately, the meeting at Margate Elementary School turned into a demonstration of the greater problems caused by BCSB.
After Margate Vice Mayor Tommy Ruzzano, a licensed general contractor, stated that he had observed and reported an electrical wire sticking up out of the ground at an earlier visit to this school, Principal Thomas Schroeder and Director Girardi assured everyone that those issues were being dealt with.
Because of additional problems with these aged school buildings showing signs of failure, Marrero noted that any onset of actual construction was probably a year and a half out, and asked how additional safety hazards could be found. Marrero was answered with typical bureaucratic double talk from Girardi who evaded a direct answer.
"It's not my department," Girardi said when attempting to spin school board responsibility.
Schroeder stated there were two staff members at the school charged with reporting problems, and the Margate Fire Department conducted regular inspections.
Where were the school staff members when electrical wiring became a hazard? Furthermore, why would the Margate Fire Department be expected to diagnose dangerous construction failures in school buildings a half century old?
Why doesn't BCSB contract with Margate building department to accomplish regular bi-annual inspections and pay the city?
Margate Elementary and all Margate public schools should rely on Margate building inspectors for thorough and reliable inspections to ensure the safety of students in the wake of failures by school employees to get the job done.
Despite happy talk from Principal Schroeder of a new LED marquee sign to cost some $12,000 raised by the school’s PTA, bureaucratic negligence and incompetence is deeply rooted in the Broward School system. From security and repairs to fixing years of mold damage.
Margate Elementary is a stellar example of needed reforms in Margate schools and the BCSB. Parents of students at all four public schools in Margate need to be vigilant and heighten their awareness of failed leadership by Runcie and his school board.
School Board Chair, Heather Brinkworth, said it best at a recent school board meeting when Runcie was in the hot seat.
Single-point-of-entry projects have fallen behind expectations of community
Learning gains, enrollment and literacy rates have dropped.
"We have known since students were in Kindergarten that proficiency rates have not improved,” she said.
Brinkworth then voted to keep Runcie, a failing talking head that earns in excess of $300,000 yearly.
She didn’t see willful neglect, she told colleagues.