Duval County School Board interviews 1st superintendent finalist

Members expected to make final selection Friday afternoon

By Elizabeth Campbell - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The first of three finalists to become the next school superintendent of Duval County schools meet with School Board members for two hours Wednesday morning. The other finalists will have second interviews over the next two days.

Michael Dunsmore, current superintendent for Wayne County Public Schools, in Golsboro, North Carolina, answered more than a dozen questions from the board on everything from disciplining students to improving low-performing schools.

Dunsmore said the opportunity to come to Jacksonville is a dream, both professionally and personally.

"I want what’s best for the school system for our students, and moving forward, not only be the best school system in the state of Florida, but across the nation," Dunsmore said. "I want folks to be able to look at the system and say,' This is somewhere we want to move and put our children.'"

Dunsmore has led Wayne County Public schools since 2015. Wayne County's annual budget is $195 million -- a fraction of the size of Duval County's budget. He holds two master's degrees -- one in special education and one in counseling.

Dunsmore told the board:

  • How he plans to ensure quality educations for exceptional education students
  • How he plans to help Jacksonville continue to heal from segregation and desegregation issues 
  • His opinion on the role of social media and the press 
  • How he plans to ensure a healthy relationship with the school board

Board members seemed pleased with his answers, and he also showed his personality, making board members laugh several times.

"I think this board has shown that they’re going to get the right person," Dunsmore said. "(The) interviews we went through last week were brutal, but in a good way, because I got to meet students. I got to meet administrators. I was able to spend one-on-one time with the board."

Diana Greene, superintendent in Manatee County, Florida, will be interviewed Thursday morning, and Erick Pruitt, area superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, will answer questions on Friday.

BIOS: Career highlights for 3 Duval County superintendent finalists 
FINALISTS' APPLICATIONS: Michael Dunsmore | Diana Greene | Erick Pruitt

Six of seven board members participated in the interview. Scott Shine, who weeks ago withdrew his application for re-election, was not at the session. News4Jax has left him a message asking if he'll participate in the next two interviews and what is expected to be a vote Friday afternoon to pick the top selection.

The entire process to find a replacement for Nikolai Vitti began one year ago when the superintendent was hired in Detroit. The pool of replacements started with 26 candidates and was narrowed down to six semifinalists, one of whom withdrew from consideration. Last weekend, a focus group, which was made up of educators and parents, interviewed the five remaining semifinalists. Each one was asked questions about issues such as school safety and budgets. 

After the board announces its preferred candidate at 4 p.m. 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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