Broward School Board Digs Itself Deeper Hole

This is a board of nine elected politicians whose campaigns have been largely financed by the construction industry and its lobbyists. During the past several years, they've wasted hundreds of millions of dollars to allow those same contractors to overbuild the district by 35,000 classroom seats, leaving the board broke and billions in debt in the process. It's a disaster that will have a profound and dismal impact on the district for years to come.

And this was no grand mistake. It was a planned and premeditated superfraud on the taxpayers. Like any Ponzi scheme, they thought the money would keep flowing. But it stopped and the district is left in ruins.  

When auditors exposed an example of the corruption in the board's construction department, the board, led by Stephanie Kraft, responded by ... attacking the auditors.

The board has no excuses. The financial books don't lie. They've driven the district into near-bankruptcy. They can either come clean now or circle the wagons of the gravy train. 

Not surprisingly, they've chosen the latter. Yesterday, the board, out of the blue, praised Superintendent Jim Notter -- who has overseen the debacle -- and are so happy with his performance that they want to extend his $300,000 contract for

three extra years.

His main problem, they said, is that he doesn't have a better public relations strategy. Of course no PR campaign is going to change the fact that you bankrupted the district to pad the wallets of the people who funded your campaigns. And voting to extend the contract of the man who orchestrated the scam isn't going to help, either. It only proves that the board members were (are) complicit in the scam rather than just being unwitting dupes. They have the information now. They know what has happened. And to extend Notter's contract is the height of arrogance and cynicism. Basically, they can't pretend like they really care about the welfare of the district anymore. Only their own political survival.  

The contract extension idea should enrage everyone except the corrupt machine that manipulates the board. The Broward Teachers Union, which has been following this disaster for years now, is calling for Notter's firing. John Ristow, spokesman for BTU president Pat Santeramo, fired off an email to the Pulp this morning in obvious disgust:

Maybe I am just frustrated and a little bewildered, but what do you have to do get a "bad" evaluation in this district? [Notter] has squandered MILLIONS of taxdollars and put the district's construction to the brink of financial collapse as well as overseen the largest number of layoffs in decades even when presented with viable alternatives. That is deserving of a three year extension? Considered by the same school board members who paid a quarter of a million dollars to buy out Superintendent Till's contract ... what a few months early?

Note to school board members: You're digging yourselves deeper into your hole. And trust me, you're only going to get buried in the end. 

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman