'There's smoke:' Questions about timeline leading up to selection of new DCPS superintendent

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — New questions are being raised about the timeline that led up to the selection of Duval County’s new top educator.


Dr. Christopher Bernier abruptly quit his job at Lee County Schools just two days after applying to DCPS. But it’s what happened right after that has some teachers raising eyebrows. Dr. Bernier put his Fort Myers house up for sale the next day; weeks before he ever became a finalist in Duval.

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It could mean nothing. But some teachers say the optics are questionable.

“There’s smoke. There’s red flags. There’s questions that need to be answered. I don’t think it’s wrong to want answers,” Chris Guerrieri, a veteran Duval County Public Schools teacher, said. “There’s a lot of smoke there and it seems really hinky — the timeline.”

Dr. Bernier applied to DCPS on April 6th using his former district’s letterhead. He then suddenly quit his job with Lee County Schools just a couple days later on April 8th. That’s the same day a civil rights lawsuit was filed in federal court naming him as a defendant.

The day after he put in his resignation, Dr. Bernier listed his Fort Myers home for sale according to Zillow. On April 22nd he removed his name from consideration as a finalist to be a superintendent in Reno, Nevada.

“There’s a lot of smoke here. Is there a fire? I don’t know. But there’s definitely a lot of smoke and we’ve got to answer some questions,” Guerrieri said.

During board interviews, Dr. Bernier alluded to two separately filed lawsuits which accused Lee County Schools of failing to protect two students from racial discrimination.

“It was a very difficult decision and some of the ramifications are still being played out and it’s an ongoing investigation,” Dr. Bernier said during the interview process.

Action News Jax reached out to the district about the optics of the timeline. In a statement, a representative said, “Dr. Bernier followed the appropriate timelines and deadlines in applying for the position of superintendent of Duval County Public Schools as outlined by the school board and the Florida School Boards Association, which was managing the search. We look forward to his arrival in the near future.”

We also reached out to each school board member about the timeline but have not heard back from any of them so far.

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