JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Duval County Public Schools’ superintendent Nikolai Vitti compared his selection to be Detroit schools' next superintendent to being drafted by his home team.
He was tapped for the position Tuesday night and now begins contract negotiations.
That means local school board members will need to figure out what they’ll do next in the event he accepts the offer, which he likely will.
The news was the reason behind a special meeting Wednesday morning among Duval County School Board members to discuss the district’s next steps.
“I think we accomplished our mission in saying to our community that we understand that Dr. Vitti has been selected by Detroit board and now we're going to look to how to move forward as a district,” said board chair Paula Wright.
Wright met with Vitti on Wednesday afternoon to get a better idea on a timeline.
“We are going to review his contract in terms of what the contract calls for and I will seek information in terms of what the Detroit board has shared with him,” Wright said, adding that the goal is to ensure a smooth transition, especially now that students are in testing.
Not all school board members want to see Vitti go. Scott Shine was one of two board members to suggest a counteroffer.
“Our graduation rates are at record highs across the district, so he's done a great job,” Shine said.
The board ultimately decided not to offer him a new contract.
“To put him in conflict would not be judicious of this board or fair to him,” board vice-chair Ashley Smith-Juarez said.
Shine believes Vitti applying for the Detroit job goes beyond him just wanting to go home, pointing to previous disagreements with other board members.
“I know that if things were different, I think he would not be seeking outside employment,” Shine said.
Vitti himself has expressed a desire to return to Detroit, where he grew up and still has family.
"When I learned of the board's decision last night, it felt as if it were announced that I was drafted by my home team. It was a proud moment for my entire family and I. To be selected as the first superintendent by the newly elected board and new district is humbling and an honor. I look forward to working through the contract phase of the process as soon as possible in order to serve the children and families of Detroit," Vitti said in a statement.
During the 2012 search for a superintendent, the Duval County Public Schools district used an outside recruiting firm, spending more than $45,000 on the search.
Shine said he’d be willing to look for candidates who already work in the district.
“I would say in the interim that will be our best option and we have several excellent individuals in our system today,” Shine said, adding that he wants to see a reformer take Vitti’s position.
“We need to prepare kids for the next generation of jobs in the workplace, so we need a forward-thinking and modern thinking superintendent,” Shine said.
It’s unclear when Vitti will leave Jacksonville. The idea of him staying through the end of the school year was tossed around in the special meeting Wednesday.
On Friday, school board members are expected to discuss the topic again if the school board attorney is able to add the last-minute item to the agenda.
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