Dozens show up to EverBank Stadium to meet DCPS Superintendent finalists

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — We are getting closer to finding out who the next Duval County Schools superintendent will be. Tonight, more than 100 people went to EverBank stadium to meet the two finalists in person.


Parents, teachers and students came to learn more about the next leader of Duval county schools.

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The candidates are Dr. Christopher Bernier and Dr. Daniel Smith.

Parents says they are concerned about the how they will tackle the challenges in district.

“I’m just curious what they have to say about the challenges are facing with the half cent sales tax and possibly closing of schools.

Just in the last few weeks, we’ve reported the district is facing a $1.4 billion funding gap that may force nearly 30 schools to consolidate and eliminate hundreds of positions.

“Speaking of someone who wants to teach in this district for the next 30/40 years, when is it gonna be my turn to go, when is my job gonna get cut?,” Terry Parker High School teacher Shane Santora said.

We’ve also learned state leaders have their eyes on DCPS and its handling of teacher misconduct including a recent delay in removing a teacher from the classroom after that teacher was arrested for exposing himself at an Orlando area hotel.

“We want to make sure our children are safe,” parent Amy Purvis said. “I think that should be a first priority.”

RELATED: Local leaders call for state to intervene over DCPS’ handling of teacher misconduct

Dr. Bernier formerly served as superintendent of Lee County Public Schools here in Florida. He says communication is key.

“I think we have to work collaboratively,” Dr. Berneir said. “In my experience, as a superintendent, I’ve always worked with community, internal and external stakeholders – everybody has something to share with individuals, as individuals, and they have the opportunity to help address some of our needs.”

Dr. Smith served as interim superintendent of Loudoun County public schools in Virginia. He says he plans to lean on his experience to tackle the problems here.

“I’m really all about impact and how we can do our best work for our kids,” Dr. Smith said. “Our teachers need our support, our educators need our support, and our community deserves it. I have that experience that I feel like I can bring to Duval. I’ve tackled some of those challenges in my current district, and I know I can do it here.”

Smith says he has an eigth grader he’s excited to bring to school. His goal…

“My goal is simple – I want to make Duval County Public Schools the premier school district in the nation,” Dr. Smith said.

RELATED: ‘No other options:’ Falling traditional school enrollment forces DCPS to cut staff

Dr. Berneir says family members have graduated from here, and he see potential here. His goal…

“I believe in a listen to learn, and then learn to lead culture,” Dr. Berneir said. “I first have to come on board and listen, in order to be able to understand some of what you’ve been asking me about at a deeper level.”

Some people already have their eyes set on who they want to be the next leader be in Duval County Schools.

“I really seem to appreciate the conversation that I just had with Dr. Bernier back here and may just be who I’m leaning towards,” Santora said.

“We are representing Daniel Smith, as our candidate for superintendent,” Riverside High School student, Kayleigh Gutierrez said. “I think that he is really into what the students have to say he wants to hear student voices.”

The School Board is expected to select a candidate on May 23 with the official start date scheduled for July 1.

While they are making the decision, you can share you feedback on who you like most online.

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