Superintendent Robert Runcie & Downtown Master Plan Front and Center at Board of Directors Meeting
It was a busy Thursday afternoon at Chamber headquarters. Due to our Chamber's upcoming Washington Summit, this month's Board of Directors meeting was held a week earlier than usual and it did not lack in substance. The head of Broward County Public Schools provided an update on changes being seen across the district and the Board voted against the City of Fort Lauderdale's Downtown Master Plan.
Joining the meeting for a special presentation this month was Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie. As is customary, our Chamber invites the head of our public schools to give an update on the district's initiatives. Following the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, school safety and security was at the forefront of Superintendent Runcie's presentation.
Mr. Runcie gave a detailed breakdown of the changes and upgrades that have been implemented district-wide. The changes came after the Broward County School Board approved $31 million to address four top priorities: expansion of video surveillance, radio system migration and enhancement, upgrading its intercom system, and the implementation of a new enterprise risk management framework.
The Superintendent made sure to give details regarding surveillance. According to Broward Schools, all school video surveillance systems were upgraded to a standard, digital platform, which provides the ability to centrally monitor the District’s complete inventory of approximately 10,000 cameras. This new capability allowed the District to enter into a formal agreement with the Broward Sheriff’s Office on January 15, 2019, to provide live, real-time access to all of the District’s cameras. This agreement was authorized to improve law enforcement and fire safety personnel response to emergencies at District schools or facilities when active circumstances present an immediate need for law enforcement or fire safety personnel to respond. The District is actively working to develop similar agreements with other law enforcement agencies within Broward County to provide them with similar access.
Superintendent Runcie also hit on an ongoing project which will improve emergency communications within schools. It will upgrade the intercom system to a digital platform; allow school administration to pre-record emergency messages and initiate them remotely; and incorporate additional speakers throughout the campuses.
In the midst of the changes, the Superintendent and his district have faced heavy criticism. Seeing that much work remains to be done, Mr. Runcie also touched on improving test scores and rising graduation rates, when comparing numbers going back to 2013-2014. In the video below, the Superintendent answers a question from our Board on how he hopes to begin restoring confidence in his district's goals and initiatives.
Not to be lost in the September Board of Directors meeting was a vote concerning the City of Fort Lauderdale's Downtown Master Plan. Following a presentation by the City, during this month's Government Affairs Committee meeting, committee members sounded off with concern pertaining to a lack of specific language in the plan. That concern led to the Board of Directors voting to oppose the current Downtown Master Plan by a large majority. It must be noted that Fort Lauderdale City Manager Chris Lagerbloom abstained from the vote due to a conflict of interest.
The Downtown Master Plan includes design guidelines that are both qualitative that promote creative design solutions based on the context of each development site and quantitative, which include more definitive dimensional standards. The focus of this effort is on the quantitative elements that guide the form of buildings and design of streets. In addition, the code changes will address downtown character areas, transition zones, open space provisions, and application of the standards to residential and nonresidential development. Additional background information and the December 18, 2018 presentation to the City Commission are available online.
The draft code amendments are anticipated to be presented to the Planning and Zoning Board on October 16, 2019 for review and recommendation. Following the Planning and Zoning Board’s recommendation, the amendments will be presented in front of the City Commission for adoption.
Chamber President and CEO Dan Lindblade made it clear that this decision by the Board can be revisited in the future, using the word "flexible" to describe the Chamber's position concerning the City's Downtown Master Plan.