Six months into his new role as Superintendent of Broward Schools, Runcie spoke to the council, which is comprised of parent representatives, principals and teachers, about the future of Broward schools, as well as restructuring the organizational chart which would mean layoffs for some of the top administrators.
The main reason for cuts to the staff is due to the fact that 33,000 less students attend Broward Schools than a just a few years ago. Runcie equates this as losing about 30 elementary schools full of children.
We’re going to have to make some difficult decisions in terms of what we’re trying to do in the organization, but I can assure you that we are going to maintain our priority on schools by putting more resources and more teachers back in schools. We’ll continue that march, and we’ll continue to support our teachers and principals, and have that be the focus.
Runcie told the audience that after speaking with principals in Broward and around the county, he has found that they spend only 20-30% average on instructional related items while spending 70-80% with a lot of non instructional items.
“When you think of where we need to go as a district and as a country to be able to compete internationally with Finland, Singapore, Asia, Canada: Countries that are outperforming the United States, we have a great opportunity to do that right now. We need to migrate our curriculum, the common core standards, and it’s not just about standards but changing practices in our classrooms. We intend to make that happen.”
An audience member asked if the district was looking at those other countries to find out why they are doing it better.
“Yes, we are looking at that,” said Runcie, who feels that even the FCAT standards are too low. He said he doesn’t want our kids graduating and finding out that they have to take remedial courses in college because they are so far behind. Runcie wants to think about where we want to go in the future. “Let’s recalibrate everything we’re doing to world class standards.”
He recommends the book, “Surpassing Shanghai,” where he says there are a lot of good examples in there, but insists it’s not about mimicing everything someone else is doing, but looking at what they are doing and seeing how we can apply those things to the context that we have here. “What we do in Broward is very different than in New York, L.A. and Shanghai, but there are some good things we can borrow and set our sights high,” said Runcie.
“We don’t have a lot of time to lose,” he said, “About 22% of our students aren’t graduating on time, and many of them that do, struggle somewhat. With that said, we have great things going on in our system like kids going on to great schools, and they’re very successful but it’s very uneven. We’ve got to get Broward to be the district in this nation where every single student can reach their potential, no matter what the challenges they come to us with, whether they have special needs, whether they’re advanced academically, whether they’re struggling students, whether they come from poor neighborhoods or rich neighborhoods.”
Runcie said that was how we should persue, the American Dream.
“That’s what America is all about, that everyone can actually have a shot at doing well if they work hard and apply themselves.”