Duval School Board Chair Says Firing Superintendent 'Not Her Intention'

Sep 21, 2016

Duval County School Board Chair Ashley Smith Juarez said she does not intend to ask fellow board members to vote on terminating  Superintendent Nikolai Vitti's contract this Friday.

Another board member told Vitti and reporters earlier this week that was what Smith Juarez planned to do.

Smith Juarez responded in an open letter to Vitti Tuesday, acknowledging she had asked him to “take his talents elsewhere,” but also said she is open to discussing a path forward.

Smith Juarez has been critical of Vitti over the last couple months, saying his approaches and goals aren’t working and aren’t urgent enough.

In a separate open letter to Vitti this week, board member Scott Shine had said a special meeting Friday was Smith Juarez’s plan to try to get rid of him.

On Wednesday, she responded directly to the allegation.

“If I intended to put a vote on the floor that I knew was imminent, I would have published it in the agenda,” she said. “I would not have withheld that from the public.”

She said she called the special board meeting, noticed as a “governance and administration” session, to discuss the best plan to benefit students. She would not clarify whether firing Vitti is an option on the table, though.

Shortly after the interview, Smith Juarez sent an open letter to Vitti with this statement.

“It is not my intention to call for resignation or a vote on your contract tomorrow. If it was I would have placed it on the public agenda. I intend for the board and Superintendent to have a discussion about a path forward that is best for students. The Board needs to be able to have a collective discussion with each other and not through the press.”

Community and business leaders, including the Jax Chamber and United Way, offered their support of Vitti and the school board as a whole.

Reporter Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at lkilbride@wjct.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at@lindskilbride