JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Change is coming at the top of Duval County Public Schools now that Dr. Nikolai Vitti will officially be taking the superintendent's job in Detroit.
News4Jax spoke with parents to gauge the reaction from the community – particularly parents of struggling students.
Vitti’s last day with the Duval County school district will be May 21.
Vitti issued a statement regarding his departure which said, in part, that “I leave the district knowing that it is in a better state than when I started.”
Vitti’s departure was met with mixed emotions throughout the district. Some district employees said they were not fans of Vitti and support a change at the top, while others have admired what he’s done.
Parents throughout a section of Northwest Jacksonville where numerous schools have had either failing or near-failing grades, shared some concerns.
Tiffany Williams has a daughter who attends Ribault Middle School, which was recently given a "D" grade. She said she’s a little concerned about a shakeup in the district. Williams said she’s mostly concerned with discipline.
“Kids just do what they wanna do,” Williams said. (They) don’t listen to their parents. That’s the problem right there: They do what they wanna do.”
News4Jax spoke with another mother whose children go to Annie R. Morgan Elementary School. It’s another school with a similar grade as Ribault Middle, which has seen improvements under Vitti’s leadership. She said that year by year, things have steadily gotten better.
Parents like Carlos Canalas, who decided to put his child in a charter school, said they will watch and see where Duval schools go from here.
“Well, who’s gonna take the flag now? Back to square one,” Canalas said. “So now the kids lost again. And with the teacher’s staff, you don’t have a leader now. Without a leader, you don’t have nothing.”
Considering that Vitti’s from the Detroit area and the salary going in would be an estimated $295,000 a year, his move wasn’t a total surprise.
At a special meeting Friday night, the Detroit Board of Education voted 7-0 to execute its contract with Vitti, who will make $295,000 in his first two years in Detroit, $303,000 in his third year, $312,000 in his fourth year and $322,000 in the fifth.
The contract, which also includes $25,000 to pay for Vitti's moving expenses, will be ratified pending approval from the Financial Review Commission.
Vitti began his tenure as DCPS superintendent in 2012.
DCPS board members will hold a special meeting Monday where they will name an interim superintendent. Then the search will begin for a new superintendent, which could take many months.