Board members narrow choices for superintendent

Public can still weigh in on candidates

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The search for Duval County's next superintendent is nearing an end, but there's still an opportunity for the public to give its input.

The School Board is hoping to hire someone before September. Members selected five finalists Thursday from a list of 30 applicants.

"Nationally respected, very involved," consultant Steve Joel said of the finalists.

SLIDESHOW: 5 finalists for superintendent

At Thursday's meeting, the majority of board members chose Kriner Cash to interview for the position. He's the superintendent of Memphis City Schools and helped his district win $92 million in funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The county's consultants say Cash is well-regarded in his profession, but School Board members raised concerns about a letter of reprimand Cash received for racist comments.

"He told a colleague, if he didn't shave his beard, he might get shot," School Board member Becki Counch said. "Asked his colleague in the presence of others, 'Is Islam a cult?' Referred to his colleagues in a professional setting as 'the Muslim.'"

Another choice board members preferred is Nikaloi Vitti. His application indicates he's a Harvard University graduate and is currently serving as the chief academic officer for Miami-Dade County.

Tied for third in voting among board members were William Miller and Dale Robbins.

Miller served as superintendent for a smaller school district in Michigan, and Robbins is a retired teacher who most recently served as an associate superintendent in Gwinett County, Ga.

"Trying to go after the perfect superintendent would be, for me, a strong administrator, a strong communicator, a strong academic," School Board member Tommy Hazouri said. "It's hard to find that in one person, but you can gather from all their background whether or not they have the ability to do all three things."

The only candidate with a connection to Duval County is Kathryn Leroy. She was picked last and barely made it to the finals. Leroy is currently the county's chief academic officer.

The public will continue to have an opportunity to weigh in on all of the candidates.

"We are looking at different ways of possibly to provide additional opportunities for people to email our board members, to let them know of questions," school district spokeswoman Jill Johnson said. "We've been doing that actually all along."

All of the selections for superintendent are scheduled to interview the last week of August.

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