School board extends superintendent's contract

Dr. Nikolai Vitti's contract extended 3 years; not all board members happy

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Duval County School Board voted unanimously Tuesday night to extend Dr. Nikolai Vitti's contract by three years.

Vitti has run the school district for two years as superintendent and his initial contract extended to the summer of 2016. The extension will take him through 2019, and he'll continue to make $275,000 a year under the contract.

The decision to extend his contract came a day after Vitti discussed some recent survey results that reveal many Duval County teachers aren't happy with their schools.

Vitti said his work is just getting started. The survey came back with some negative feedback from teachers, but Vitti said the results will allow him to make improvements to the district.

"Anytime you make big structural changes to the system you'll have a little bit of angst. But what I think people are looking for is some stability," said School Board member Jason Fischer. "You create a lot of change in the beginning and you stick around and make sure the reforms get instituted properly. You stick around and see the rise in student gains."

But other board members said they didn't feel the board was given enough time to review the contract and that the contract didn't include specific goals.

"This cannot continue to occur on this board, where we box out people from having a discussion when they ask to defer and they share concerns, because that does not unite a school board, and that creates division among this body, and it looks really poor for the public that are watching tonight that we couldn't get our act together to have a document in place to have goals set prior to approving this contract, and this has to stop tonight," School Board Member Becki Couch said. 

In February, the board held a special meeting to evaluate the superintendent.

Some of the biggest strengths they pointed to were:

  • Courageous leadership
  • College readiness
  • More kids doing better in Duval County than ever before

Areas where they pointed to needed growth were:

  • Long-term planning
  • Communication
  • Improved morale at school level

Vitti said he feels that so far, he has delivered on all his promises.

"I think the board and I have done a lot of great things over the past two years, but we're only starting," Vitti said. "We have great momentum and I'm hoping that the board signals that we're going to continue this relationship over time, so the work that we've started can continue. I'm hopeful and optimistic that will be the case."

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