Educators from Memphis, suburban Atlanta and Miami appeared in Jacksonville on Monday for final interviews in the search for a new Duval County school superintendent.
The Duval County School Board's vote for who will take over when Ed Pratt-Dannals retires is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday.
Last month, the board narrowed the field to Kriner Cash, outgoing superintendent of Memphis, Tenn., School District; Dale Robbins, retired associate superintendent of the Gwinnett, Ga., School District; and Nikolai Vitti, chief academic officer of Miami-Dade schools.
Community Members, teachers and students had a chance to talk to all three of the candidates.
The morning began with Vitti answering questions, followed by a closed-door interview. Each candidate was expected to be questioned for two hours.
"It's a good feeling, exciting, but of course challenging," Cash said. "It's going to always be challenging, a large school district."
The questions from community members ranged from management style to technology in schools. Each candidate outlined his vision for Duval County.
"Well, I think my top priority always is trying to make sure we can establish a good culture of continuous improvement and collaboration," Robbins said. "I think those are key pieces that anyone who might come in as superintendent wants to listen well rather than come in and start announcing or dictating any kinds of a program."
The candidates made it clear they all want to bring change to the district, and they all described their different plans for the future.
"Well, I want to drive home that I have a track record of raising student achievement, and I think that at the end of the day, parents want a leader that has demonstrated effectiveness," Vitti said.
The candidates also made it clear that if selected, they'll be here to stay.
"My son right now is in fourth grade in Miami, and if given the opportunity to be superintendent, he will certainly be in a Duval County Public School, and I hope to be here long enough to see him graduate from high school here," Vitti said.
"Well, I think my thinking is after 36 years as an educator, I want my last job coming up, not my next job," Robbins said. "So you want to find that place where you feel like you can make a meaningful contribution and not be thinking, 'OK, where do I want to go after that?'"
Robbins is the only candidate who considers himself a "true" Florida outsider. Vitti and Cash both have experience working within the state's school system.
That's experience, however, they feel is a benefit.
"There are more opportunities here than challenges," Cash said. "Challenge is everywhere, but there's far more opportunities here, but we've got to go forward. There's a tipping point right now."
When the results are passed on to the board on Tuesday, members will deliberate and are expected to make a hiring decision.
"They have to come out with a decision certainly one way or the other," said Jill Johnson with Duval County Public Schools. "They'll deliberate and talk about their next steps, whether that's hiring someone. There's a multitude of options, but the plan at this point obviously is to move forward by offering the position to one of those three candidates."
For more information on the superintendent finalists, read their applications: