Superintendent defends transportation director

By Bob Norman, Reporter, bnorman@Local10.com
Published On: Dec 06 2012 05:25:35 PM EST
Updated On: Dec 07 2012 08:54:19 AM EST

The superintendent of Broward County Public Schools defends his transportation department director -- and long-time friend -- who remains on the public payroll despite taking a medical leave in September.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -

After coming under fire for presiding over a school transportation crisis that led to thousands of complaints, Broward County Public Schools administrator Chester Tindall announced in September he was taking an extended medical leave.

Many publicly called for Tindall to be fired from his $125,000 a year job, and the announcement in September was believed by many at the time as a way for him to take a more graceful exit from his post.

But Tindall -- a long-time friend of Supt. Robert Runcie -- never left the public payroll and is still working on the taxpayers’ dime.

"Mr. Tindall is still employed at the school board," said Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie. "(He is) helping us to review contracts in our procurement area."

School Board member Nora Rupert said Tindall should have been gone a long time ago. She said she plans to bring up the issue up at a transportation meeting next week.

"I'll be asking hard questions,” Rupert said. “'Where is Chester? What is he doing? What are our plans for Chester?'"

Tindall drew the ire of parents and bus drivers as problems plagued the Broward County Public Schools Transportation Department earlier in the year under his direction, leaving countless children without rides to and from school. A new routing system he implemented was fraught with problems and a bus driver shortage plagued efforts to fix the problems. Tens of thousands of complaints were received from angry parents.

"You retain confidence in Mr. Tindall's abilities after this transportation debacle?" Local 10's Bob Norman asked Runcie.

"Mr. Tindall was sent into transportation to be very aggressive about changes that we needed there,” replied Runcie. “We still believe that direction is appropriate.”

"Are you suggesting he did a good job?" said Norman.

“Well, you know, we did have a challenge in transportation," said Runcie, who said he believes the beleaguered transportation department is on its way to becoming one of the best in the nation. “... There are different stages of change that you need to go through. We went through one stage with Mr. Tindall. We’re moving to another stage now putting in a different team and structure in place to continue with the reforms that we’ve started.”

Runcie brought Tindall down from Chicago after he was hired as superintendent and the two are old friends, a relationship that has prompted accusations of cronyism.

"Mr. Tindall's continued employment, is it related to his friendship and long-time working relationship with you?" asked Norman.

"It has no bearing at all. I know Mr. Tindall,” said Runcie. “When it comes to looking out for kids and taxpayers in this district, nobody comes in front of that.”