Jacksonville NAACP Unhappy With Duval Schools' Performance, Vitti's Leadership

Feb 22, 2016

NAACP Jacksonville President Isaiah Rumlin and U.S. Rep Corrine Brown (D-FL5) arrive at the Duval County Public Schools main building Monday to address low performance in heavily African-American schools.
Credit Lindsey Kilbride / WJCT News

Jacksonville’s NAACP branch isn’t happy with Duval County Public Schools. On Monday, the group called for the community to demand better leadership from Superintendent Nikolai Vitti.

President Isaiah Rumlin says the district's 59 “D” and “F” schools, many with large populations of African-American students, is unacceptable.

“Teachers, parents and this community need consistency,” he says. “Every year we are experiencing significant changes in our schools, and the result is more failing schools.”

He calls Vitti's boundary changes and recommendations for magnet and themed schools "a charade."

U.S. Rep Corrine Brown (D-FL5) stood at Rumlin's side Monday outside the Duval Schools administration building. Last year she came to a Duval School Board workshop to voice her disapproval of district boundary changes. She says the neighborhoods around schools need to be included when addressing low performance.

“We do have some problems,” Brown said Monday. “We need to get past the problems and move to the solutions. I’m not standing here saying I want to get rid of the superintendent. But I want the superintendent to work with the community, all of the community.”

The NAACP is submitting a list of recommendations to Vitti, including developing a team of community experts to review low-performing schools and discuss transformation strategies.

But Vitti says the district is doing a lot to address low performance in schools, and it’s working. He says, just look at how Duval compares to the seven largest districts in Florida when it comes to its graduation rate.

Superintendent Nikolai Vitti stands with principals of low-performing Duval schools to talk about what the district is doing to improve school grades Monday.
Credit Lindsey Kilbride / WJCT News

“Three years ago we stood five out of seven among the big seven with African-American graduation rate,” he says. “Today among the big seven, we are number one in African-American graduation rate. There is no statistic that is more relevant and more important than graduation rate.”

Vitti says over the last four years the state has made massive changes to the accountability system used to grade schools, leading to increases in Ds and Fs across the entire state.

Vincent Hall, principal at William Raines High School, says the School Board provided resources to improve the graduation rate at his school. Raines is considered a low-performing "transformation school."

“I had to have a graduation coach provided by the superintendent and the board,” he says. “I had to have counselors who had professional experiences provided by the superintendent and the board. I had to have vouchers so that I can give ACT and SAT practices for those students.”

Vitti says the district also offers a $20,000 incentive for the recruitment and retention of high-performing teachers in low-performing schools.