1st day on job, school chief unveils 100-day plan

Dr. Nikolai Vitti takes reins of Duval County School District

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - On his first day on the job, Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti present his vision for Duval County schools.

Monday afternoon, Vitti said his goal is to listen, learn and transform, hoping to achieve several goals quickly.

"I think it's a matter of time until people begin to trust my leadership, my instinct and my judgment," Vitti said.

Last month, the Duval County School Board approved a 3½-year, $275,000 contract for Vitti -- the same base pay and benefits as former Superintendent Ed Pratt-Dannals.

Vitti, 35, who had been chief academic officer of Miami-Dade County Schools, is in the process of moving his wife and four children, who he says will attend public schools.  Vitti said he plans to be in Jacksonville for a long time.

Vitti has released his 100-day plan for Duval County schools, which includes daily visits to schools, meeting with each School Board member individually and posting town meetings in different districts. The document says his priorities are to expand early childhood education, increase the graduation rate and develop instructional leaders.

"I'm moving forward quickly, but I don't think it will actually take me 100 days to get through the 100 day plan," Vitti said Monday afternoon. "Honestly, I think it begins by owning the problem and admitting that there are areas that need to be improved. There's nothing wrong with saying that we're not perfect."

Vitti believes one key to success is accountability and says it's up to the community to ensure the success of the school district.

"We are in a state of crisis. Too many of our parents are opting out of public education; many of our parents that are in public education are wondering if that's the best place for their children." Vitti said. "This administration and this board will be committed to restoring the parents confidence in public education."

Vitti said his biggest challenge as a first-time superintendent will be the budget.

"All of our problems in public education isn't necessarily linked to funding. It's also how we use the funding that we have, so I will be looking closely at how we're spending our general revenue dollars, but specifically our federal dollars, making sure that they are aligned," Vitti said.

Vitti's first meeting with the School Board will be Wednesday night.  It will also be the first meeting for four newly-elected board members.

New superintendent's background

Before becoming an administrator with Miami-Dade schools, Vitti also served as deputy chancellor of school improvement and student achievement with Florida Department of Education as well as bureau chief of school improvement/executive director for region one. In these roles, he led statewide professional development for superintendents, district administrators, principals and teachers on school improvement initiatives.

Previous to joining the state, Vitti served as principal of Homestead Middle School, where he moved the school from a "D" to a high "B." Prior coming to Florida, Vitti was dean of students at a 4,000-student high school in the Bronx. 

Vitti began his career as a teacher at both the high school and middle school level in North Carolina and New York.

Vitti said he is looking for a place to live close to work so he can minimize travel time.

"I know I will spend some long hours here at the district and I want to be home as much as I can, or run home and then come back quickly," Vitti said.

His children are aged 4 to 9 years old.

"My three sons are excited. They now are Jaguar fans, so the carrot for them has been more football," Vitti said. "My daughter is a little more reluctant. She has some close friends and asked if she could bring her teacher with her to Jacksonville."

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