A government-spending watchdog’s investigation claims “unnecessary travel” and “lobbying activities” by Broward County School District Superintendent Robert Runcie wasted taxpayers’ money but achieved little for students.
An OpenTheBooks.com analysis maintains Runcie’s “excessive travel, salary, perks, benefits and padded pension plan” will cost taxpayers $564,000 “in 2019 alone.”
The Florida Department of Education lists Runcie’s 2018-19 base salary as $342,370, the second-highest for a K-12 district superintendent in the state, behind only Miami-Dade School District Superintendent Alberto Carvalho’s $352,874 salary.
The Miami-Dade School District, with 528 schools and 357,249 students, is the state’s largest and fifth-largest in the nation, according to the National Center for Education Statistics [NCES]. The Broward School District, with 353 schools and 271,852 students, is Florida’s second-largest and seventh-largest in the country.
The district includes Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where a Valentine’s Day 2018 shooting killed 17, spurred state lawmakers to adopt a $400 million school safety bill and galvanized the gun-control movement nationwide.
In a July 17 Forbes’ column, OpenTheBooks.com CEO & Founder Adam Andrzejewski wrote, “Following the shootings, Runcie aggressively interjected himself into the legislative fight,” traveling to Washington, D.C. to participate in “March For Our Lives.”
Runcie “has a First Amendment right to express his opinion,” Andrzejewski said. “However, taxpayers have a right to ask whether their money is being wasted on unnecessary travel, lobbying activities, perks and a super-sized salary.”
It was among 13 “taxpayer-paid trips” spanning 35 days – “the equivalent of seven full work weeks” – after the Parkland shooting, Andrzejewski said.
Yet, he said, during the Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission hearing, “Runcie admitted even basic security measures of ‘hard-corners,’ ‘Code-Red,’ and emergency code policies still hadn’t been updated” 10 months after the shooting.
“Runcie’s detractors question his competence, claiming the Parkland shooting uncovered failures to address security and mental health issues. Some also claim Runcie created an environment in which student crimes and misbehaviors were underreported,” he writes.
Runcie told NBC 6 Miami that Andrzejewski’s allegations were "irresponsible" and provided documents showing 28 total days traveled in 2018 after the shooting.
In an email exchange with Andrzejewski, the district said Runcie traveled to Washington not to attend gun control rallies but to meet with congressional leaders and “advocate for additional educational funding specifically to enhance school security and mental health and wellness. The second [trip] was to attend a school tour of Southwestern High School in Indiana on April 5, 2018.”
Runcie and several Florida lawmakers toured the school “at the request of Max Schachter (a victim’s parent) to observe the safety and security protocols at this school, considered to be the ‘safest school in America,’” the district said.
Runcie was hired by the Broward County School District Board in 2011 with a base salary of $270,000. In late 2017, he received a six-year contract extension worth $3.5 million in cash and benefits, Andrzejewski writes.
When his contract expires in 2023, “our auditors at OpenTheBooks.com estimate Runcie will earn approximately $6.1 million from his hire date,” he said.
OpenTheBooks.com’s breakdown of Runcie’s salary, perks, travel, etc.:
Salary: $357,577 base salary for fiscal year 2020, which began July 1. That comes to $195 an hour.
Travel: In 2017 and 2018, Runcie took 36 trips totaling 79 workdays. That amounts to $110,000.
Insurance: Runcie and his family receive fully paid health, vision and dental insurance. His disability insurance plan covers replacement income up to $210,000 per year or $17,500 a month.
Public pension: As a Florida Retirement System member, Runcie contributes 3 percent, the district 8.47 percent, of base salary. Over the 11-year term of his contract, taxpayers will contribute $330,000.
Retirement plan: The board agreed to fund two additional retirement plans for Runcie. “Since 2017, taxpayers shoveled $48,000 per year into Runcie’s 403(b) and 457 plans,” Andrzejewski writes. “By 2022, the cost to taxpayers will be $288,000.”
In its response, the district said while negotiating with Runcie in 2017, it reviewed superintendent contracts for more than 10 large, urban school districts.
“The analysis suggested Superintendent Runcie was being compensated lower than a number of his peers, and specifically lower than superintendents in neighboring school districts in South Florida [Miami-Dade, Palm Beach],” it said. “Additionally, the analysis supports the fact his amended employment agreement is extremely fair and modest in terms of its compensation, paid time off, deferred retirement benefits and other forms of compensation.”
Runcie’s base $342,370 salary in 2019 rivaled or exceeded those of the six larger urban districts nationwide.
He earned slightly less than New York City School Chancellor Richard Carranza’s $345,000 and Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner’s $350,000.
Runcie was paid more than Chicago Public Schools Chief Education Officer Janice K. Jackson’s $260,000 and Clark County School District Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky’s $320,000.