School board names top choice to run Duval County schools

Manatee County Superintendent Diana Greene is board's unanimous choice

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – One year after Nikolai Vitti left Jacksonville to take over Detroit's public school system, the Duval County School Board voted to offer Dr. Diana Greene, current superintendent of Florida's Manatee County School District, the job as Jacksonville's top educator.

On Friday afternoon, the board voted unanimously to begin contract negotiations to hire Greene in hopes that she could be on the job by July 1.

Duval County School Board Chair Paula Wright called Greene just minutes after the board voted her as its No. 1 choice to become superintendent.

Greene later told News4Jax by phone that her husband was the first person to call her after he saw she was chosen. Greene said she was then offered the job as she was preparing for graduation day in Manatee County.

She said it's bittersweet leaving that district, but she's looking forward to becoming a part of the Jacksonville community. 

“I’m very honored, excited and humbled at the same time," Greene said. "They had a great group of candidates to select from and I’m just extremely humbled being selected from that group of individuals.”

All board members agreed on several top qualities. Greene understands the way the legislation works in Florida. They also said that during her three years as superintendent in Manatee County, she showed tremendous work in getting the district out of nearly $800 million in debt.

Other attributes the board liked about Greene included:

  • When she started as superintendent in Manatee County in 2015, there were 19 D and F schools. After her first year, that number was cut in half. 
  • Board members said she’s bold and isn’t scared to do what she needs to.
  • Board member Warren Jones said next school year, Manatee County will have the highest starting teacher salary in the state. 

News4Jax asked Wright about her hope for what Greene can do to Duval County’s D and F schools.

"We hope she’ll bring her eagle-eye focus on instructional design," Wright said. "The other part of that is her ability to look at instructional design and not just understand what it is, but also to professionally develop principals and other education leaders."

Greene said she feels she and the Duval County Public Schools are on the same page when it comes to providing quality education to students. 

"I think their vision is educational excellence at every school, every classroom, every student, every day," she said. "That’s so much in the line of my own personal philosophy -- is that it has to be educational excellence every day for every student.”

On Thursday, during her second interview with the school board, Greene said learning how to stay engaged within a district with about 80,000 more students would be her biggest challenge.

"Today, I engage especially with my low-performing schools. I’m highly engaged with those schools," Greene said after Thursday's interview. "But I’m engaged also in the arts, sports, and I want to do the same thing in Duval. My concern would be: How involved can I be?"

During that interview, Greene told the board that since she became superintendent in Manatee County in 2015, her accomplishments include:

  • The graduation rate went from 75 to 81 percent.
  • Class sizes were reduced.
  • The arts were brought back.
  • Teachers were given raises.

The School District of Manatee County's annual budget is $866 million. Greene told the board that she would make sure Duval County's finances are in a solid place.

She also talked about how she would support principals in Duval County. As Manatee County schools superintendent, Greene said, she sends birthday cards to principals, attends principal meetings and works with them to provide feedback.

Greene told the board Thursday that, if selected, she would be in Duval County long-term. She also said she is the right fit for the job. 

The pool started with 26 candidates and was narrowed down to six semifinalists, one of whom withdrew from consideration. Earlier this week, the school board selected three finalists and then interviewed each of them before ultimately selecting Greene as its No. 1 pick to become the new superintendent.

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