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Inspectors Put Broward School Board Under The Microscope

FT. LAUDERDALE (CBS4) - In the wake of a scathing report from a Florida Grand Jury on the management, or in this case mismanagement, of the way the Broward School District, state inspectors are now taking a look at the district's proposed solutions.

State education officials were not satisfied with a list of fixes submitted by the county's School Board and sent a team of investigators from the Inspector General's Office to take a closer look.

"We welcome that, so does our board," said Superintendent James Notter. "It's a great opportunity to get third party validation of things that we are doing proactively."

In advance of their visit Tuesday, the inspectors sent a list of 39 items they planned to check over the next few days; they asked that all relevant documents and employees be made available to them.

The Grand Jury's report, which was released last month, 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 concluded with nearly two dozen recommendations for the School Board including mandatory ethics training and cutting the size of the board in half.

On Monday, the School Board tentatively approved a new ethics code.

"The Grand Jury report is like the pink elephant in the room here, everybody's either referring to it or ignoring," said board member Nora Rupert said. "It just came out. We stink! Let's just say it, we stink! So let's just start there. The buck stops with me."

The new ethics code prohibits board members from taking gifts from lobbyists, vendors and contractors; it also forbids them from taking campaign donations during the bidding process. Each board member will also have to file a quarterly disclosure report.

On Tuesday a three person team from the Inspector General's Office will begin their review of the School Board and evaluate it for efforts taken to address the grievances laid out in the Grand Jury report.

While there have been hints that Superintendent James Notter's job may be on the line, during Monday's School Board meeting he said he welcomed the early evaluation the board unanimously voted to give him.

"I believe this is the right thing for the future whether I'm part of that future or not," said Notter.
Notter's contract with the county ends in 2014 but the School Board can terminate him at any time.

"History should not be repeating itself," said school board member Robin Bartleman. "And changing the person at the top and changing the board members hasn't stopped that from happening."

The Inspector General's Office team will spend several days reviewing the board's actions and plans for the future. It will then be up to the state to determine what, if any, action will be taken against the board.

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