Public gets first look at Duval superintendent candidates Saturday

School board expected to make final decision on new superintendent Friday

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The five semifinalists for the job of Duval County school superintendent took questions from the people Saturday as part of the process to name a new head of Jacksonville schools.

The semifinalists for the job are Michael Dunsmore, Diana Greene, Sito Narcisse, Harrison Peters and Erick Pruitt.

Here's some of what they had to say in media interviews after being questioned by the public.

Candidate Harrison Peters is from Pensacola, Florida and is currently the chief of schools of Hillsborough County.

"There are three things that are at my core, That's increasing achievement for all students, closing the achievement gap and raising graduation rates," Peters said.

Erik Pruitt is a retired marine and currently serves as a superintendent of schools in Texas.

"My vision for and reason for coming to Jacksonville is because I've dealt with the challenges you're dealing with. In Chicago we dealt with budget deficits and we got past that," said Pruitt.

Sito Narcisse speaks fluent French and Creole and is currently chief of schools in Metro Nashville, Tennessee. His focus is on teachers.

"I think if a teacher doesn't have time to plan, they can't do the work. It doesn't matter how much is scripted or you want to tell them to work harder to change these grades. They need time to do that," said Narcisse.

Diana Greene is a Florida woman. In fact she got her bachelor's degree in elementary education here in Jacksonville at the University of North Florida.

She currently works as superintendent of schools in Manatee County.

"I think the challenges are very similar to challenges I have in Manatee. Safety and security. Students are concerned about communication between themselves, and leadership," Green said.

Dr. Michael Dunsmore is currently superintendent of Wayne County Public Schools. He holds two master's degrees, one in special education, the other in counseling.

“My role as the leader is make sure we’re attracting the best and brightest teachers, aides, cafeteria workers. Everybody, we want the best we can get here for our kids," said Dunsmore

Frederick Heid was named a semifinalist, but he withdrew his name from consideration.

Duval County School Board members met in one-on-one interviews Friday with the five candidates for school superintendent and the public heard from the candidates Saturday.

At Friday's interviews, which were closed to the public, each board member got time alone with individual candidates to get to know them better.

The candidates had another busy day Saturday, with the public session that began at 9 a.m. at the Schultz Center, 4019 Boulevard Center Drive. 

Here's how it worked:

Each board member selected three people from the community for focus groups to question the candidates. 

Members of the focus groups include teachers, parents, business leaders and others.

The meetings were open to everyone, but only those selected for the focus groups could ask questions.

The candidates will be in two panel interviews open to the public. Each candidate will be interviewed separately by each panel. At no time will the candidates be questioned as a group.

Each candidate will have 10 minutes with media after they’re done answering questions. 

Candidates will then attend a discussion with student leaders from Duval County high schools, as well as a discussion with senior leadership. Those sessions will not be open to the public or the media.

School board members collectively agreed in a board workshop Tuesday to not attend Saturday’s events

For anyone interested in attending but not able to make it, the event will be streamed online.

Resumes and background of semifinalists

Michael Dunsmore | Diana Greene | Sito Narcisse | Harrison Peters | Erick Pruitt

Next steps

The School Board will meet Monday afternoon and is expected to identify finalists at 6 p.m. Background checks will be initiated on the finalists and a second round of interviews will happen next Wednesday through Friday.

The board is expected to announce its preferred candidate at 4 p.m. next Friday. 

An offer will be made on or before June 1, with a goal of having the new superintendent on the job on July 1.

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