Sides at odds over Duval public schools open enrollment

Vitti wants policy put in place; Rep. Mia Jones asks for more time before vote

By Ashley Mitchem - Reporter, anchor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Duval County Superintendent Nikolai Vitti's recent proposal of open enrollment has parents, school board members and politicians talking.

The proposal would allow families to choose any school in the district they would like to send their children to.

Vitti said currently if people don't like their neighborhood school, they can send their children to a magnet school, but that only benefits academically or athletically gifted kids.

An open enrollment policy would open school selection to everyone else.

"I think we've been reactive for too long and seeing too many kids leave our public school system, and we should have been doing this years before, I believe," Vitti said.

Under the proposal, Englewood High School students, for instance, could apply to go to Robert E. Lee High School.

"What I'm trying to do is be more competitive and say, 'Well, if you aren't happy with your boundary school, then don't go to a charter, go to another traditional school," Vitti said. "I think the community would rather see kids stay in traditional public schools because ultimately it affects our bottom line."

If the school is full, parents would have to choose another. It does not cover transportation.

Vitti's proposal would give higher performing teachers and principals incentives, and transfer them to lower-performing schools.

The committee is expected to vote on the plan in early April. In a statement, state House Rep. Mia Jones said she's trying to push the vote date back.

"Parents should be given choice, but we also have an obligation to neighborhoods to fix schools that are under-performing and bring them up to the same standards of quality," she said. "I urge the members of the Duval County Public School Board to delay a vote on this proposal on Tuesday, April 1st and hold a series of community meetings on this very important issue."

"Open enrollment may lead certain schools to be even more under-enrolled than they currently are. I understand where her concern is," Vitti said. "That may happen, but I have said clearly and will continue to say I have no intention of closing any schools based on current low enrollment or additional low enrollment."

Vitti said the vote will continue as planned, and the date will not be altered.

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