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School Board preps for possible Vitti departure

Decision from Detroit expected April 5

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Duval County School Board is not wasting any time preparing in case Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti leaves for the same position with the Detroit Public Schools Community District.

Vitti, a Detroit native, announced last weekend that he is exploring the opportunity to become superintendent in his Michigan hometown. Vitti, who has been Duval County's superintendent since November 2012, released a statement Saturday saying he had been contacted by a national search firm about the job with Detroit schools.

Board chairwoman Paula Wright said during a special meeting Wednesday -- during Duval County's spring break -- that Vitti told the board that his final interview with the Detroit district would be April 3 and that a decision would be made April 5. The board set another meeting for April 7, after the Detroit decision is expected.

"If we are in need to secure another superintendent, the first step is to talk about an interim," Wright said. "Statutorily, we must have a superintendent in at all times, so we would have to name someone and then decide if are going to do a search. If we're going to do a search, how we're going to go through that process, etc., so those are the next steps." 

Six board members attended the special meeting and Vice-chairwoman Ashley Smith Juarez joined by phone.

Board member Cheryl Grymes expressed concern that Vitti wasn't invited to Wednesday's meeting, "Because we are still a team."

"Yes, the superintendent is still the superintendent, but we're also the board and there are certain things we must do as the board," Wright responded.

Many board members said they were surprised when they heard that Vitti was considering the Detroit job, but said that since he is a successful superintendent, it’s not surprising that he has been recruited by other districts.

Scott Shine said it's a complement to Duval County schools that others are seeking him.

Shine stressed the importance of making right decision over a quick decision.

"I'm confident that if we need a year to make a decision, if we come to that, we'll have the time to do that," Shine said. "We need to make sure and get the best fit for our school district. That could be an external candidate. That could be someone internal. But as of today, we really don't have that problem to solve yet."

Parents who contacted said they trusted the board will make a proper decision, if it's needed.

"Every school needs to come together and get the community involved," parent Alexandria Lainez said. "I think that's something we've failed on and, hopefully, if he does leave and somebody else comes in, they will step up on that."

Wright discuss Vitti’s contract or what would happen if he decides to stay in Duval County. She said they are taking this one step at a time.

She added that the Florida Student Assessments are coming up soon and she hopes that parents and students will not be distracted by any change in leadership.