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Notter: Reason To Leave Broward School Board Personal

FT. LAUDERDALE (CBS4) – While his critics may not agree, Broward School Board Superintendent James Notter said his reasons for leaving his post is personal and has nothing to do with the district's troubles.

Meanwhile, the board got down to business with the focus on the future one day after Notter announced his resignation.

During the meeting Wednesday, Notter discussed a scathing report issued by a Florida Grand Jury which accused the board of gross mismanagement and possible corruption.

Notter said his decision to leave had nothing to do with the report.

"I know life is short when you're 64 and going on 65," he said. "I'm going to enjoy my grand kids as well as my wife for the rest of the time before I pass through the light."

Notter added that, "I did not perhaps do the best as a father when the girls were growing up. I wanted to spend more time. I didn't. My wife and I chose that I would be the one to work three or four jobs."

Members said they were surprised none the less after he announced his resignation.

"It was a complete shock to me," said Board member Nora Rupert.  "It's interesting timing since we are doing a review for the Grand Jury and I think he was being a consummate leader by trying to put the kids in the county first."

School board member Jennifer Gottlieb said he will be missed.

"It's a very sad day," she said. "He's done a wonderful job managing this district and he'll surely be missed."

Notter is leaving a $300,000 job three years before his contract expires.

"He made a decision and it was a family decision," said Board member Benjamin Williams.  "We respect that."

Notter vows his reason is legit, not a lame excuse – but that he's really ready to retire. He said it has nothing to do with the district's troubles and scathing grand jury report finding inept leadership, corruption and mis-management.

But his critics said he saw the writing on the wall.

"When he saw gross errors, absolute malfeasance total disregard for the laws… and he did nothing to stop it," said critic Jamie Levine. "He knew he had to resign."

The Grand Jury's report accused the School Board of gross mismanagement: building schools that weren't needed, opening schools that had not passed inspections and wasting millions in taxpayer money. The report also alleged school board members were too close to the selection process of contractors to build schools and that created a climate of corruption. Two former board members have been arrested on corruption charges.

The report also said Notter was not strong enough to lead the district and suggested voters have the option to elect the next Superintendent.

"I've only been here four months but as an outsider myself I guess I would probably say an outsider might have a fresh perspective," said Rupert.

Board member have said they plan to take action in the light of the Grand Jury report and hold those responsible accountable.

"We're going to hold your feet to the fire, as we discuss these processes and we have nailed it down and identified how it is supposed to work, then you're going to be responsible or you won't have a job," said School Board Vice Chair Ann Murray.

School board members are concerned about the timing of his resignation.  He is leaving as a new teacher merit pay plan is passed by the state, and no one's sure about the financial implications.

The district is also expecting very difficult days ahead as it faces another massive budget shortfall because of slashed state funding.

"In those 90 days we're going to have to lay off hundreds of employees," school board member Robin Bartleman said. "We have to cut $100,000,000 dollars from our budget and we have to now look for a superintendent.  So the timing is tough."

Through it all, Notter said he is proud of his work and his guiding principal.

"Regardless of your zip code and where you're from you're entitled to the highest quality of education," he said. "It doesn't make any difference where you live."

Board members plan to spend Monday going over their responses to the Grand Jury report.

Notter will be on the job until June 30th.

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