Duval School Board approves contract for new superintendent

Nikolai Vitti signs 3½-year contract paying him $275,000 annually

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - After a brief discussion questioning superintendent Nikolai Vitti's $275,000 pay, the Duval County School Board on Monday morning approved his contract as proposed.

The board -- which voted 5-2 earlier last month to hired the Vitti -- held a special meeting to approve the contract with the same base pay and benefits as outgoing Superintendent Ed Pratt-Dannals.

After board member Paula Wright suggested lowering Vitti's compensation, she was the was the only person to vote against the contract. She then asked for a second vote and joined the majority, passing the contract unanimously.

"I did offer an amendment to our original contract, but we're moving forward," Wright said after the meeting. "Once the board speaks, we are one -- we are one voice -- so we are not going to discuss salary anymore. We're just going to look forward to how we work together as superintendent and as a board and move our district forward."

DOCUMENT:  Employment agreement

Vitti, 35, will leave his job as chief academic officer of Miami-Dade County schools -- the fourth largest district in the country -- to take the helm of Duval County's school district on Nov. 12.  His contract runs through June 2016, and the board made sure there is not "golden parachute" -- a payout if the contract is terminated early.

"You know, we haven't done anything different than we did seven years ago (when Pratt-Dannals with hired)," board member Tommy Hazouri said. "If anything, I think that he's going to be happy with that. Not asking for any raises, not asking for any bonuses. I think that was clear while he was negotiating."

Vitti was not at Monday's meeting.

During the interview process, Vitti emphasized that he's worked in various positions with the school system, including as a teacher, administrator and principal, and saying that he understands all aspects it takes to be successful.

Vitti has said his primary focus for taking the district from good to great will be:

  • Expanding early childhood education
  • Increasing the graduation rate
  • Developing instructional leaders
  • Improving teacher quality and morale
  • Streamlining the efficiency of business and operations
  • Strengthening parent and community involvement

"I am eager to listen and act on what our stakeholders believe needs to happen to transform our district into a national model, where all students excel and develop the skills and confidence to fulfill their aspirations," Vitti said in a statement. "Public education is at a breaking point and we must prove that it continues to be the vehicle to make the country's promise of equal opportunity a reality."

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.

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