The Broward County School Board on Wednesday selected former businessman Robert Runcie as Broward’s next school superintendent. The Broward school system ”is the sixth largest and the largest fully accredited K-12 and adult school system in the country” with “nearly 257,000 students, 230 traditional schools and centers, 68 charter schools and one virtual school that serves elementary, middle and high school students.”
According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, the decision to select Runcie “ultimately came down to his business savvy and ability to improve technology and transportation in Chicago’s public schools.”
The Sun Sentinel adds that Runcie, a Harvard economist who has no classroom experience and has never been a school principal, “said his first priority would be student achievement. And in order to focus on students, he said the district had to restore public trust and improve its business practices.”
Runcie is also a 2009 alumni of The Broad Superintendents Academy, “started in 2002 by entrepreneur and philanthropist Eli Broad to transform urban school districts into effective public enterprises. The Academy is a program of The Broad Center for the Management of School Systems.”
The Broad Center’s board of directors includes, among others, Michelle Rhee — an informal education adviser to Gov. Rick Scott; the former Washington, D.C., public school chancellor; a supporter of the tough-on-teachers brand of school reform; and the founder and CEO of Students First.
Rhee spoke in Fort Lauderdale in July about her support for better teachers, better school principals, choice, competition, accountability, fiscal responsibility and the right government structure — policies promoted by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who as chairman of the board and president of Foundation for Excellence in Education is working at the national level to support the implementation of choice, competition, school vouchers and testing.
Diane Ravitch, a research professor of education at New York University and an education historian, recently described the debate over school “reform”:
The response to the current crisis in education tends to reflect two different worldviews. On one side are those who call themselves “reformers.” The reformers believe that the schools can be improved by more testing, more punishment of educators (also known as “accountability”), more charter schools, and strict adherence to free-market principles in relation to employees (teachers) and consumers (students). On the other are those who reject the reformers’ proposals and emphasize the importance of addressing the social conditions—especially poverty—that are the root causes of poor academic achievement.