Text Messages Highlight Duval School Board Hostilities Toward Vitti

Feb 11, 2016

 

In a September text message Duval County School Board Member Connie Hall writes she wants Superintendent Nikolai Vitti fired.

Updated Thurs 2/11 at 6:20 p.m.:

A Duval County School Board member said she wants Superintendent Nikolai Vitti fired. Connie Hall said that in a text message she sent in September to a district staffer.

A Miami lawyer requested the emails and texts of Hall and two other board members, and a copy of the records was provided to WJCT.

Back in November, Hall wrote a letter to Vitti saying he lacks respect when talking to board members. Her text messages show deeper feelings.

In a September text message to School Board Internal Auditor Michelle Begley, Hall wrote, “I vote, fire him now!!!!!!!!!!!!!” In another text, Hall references the resignation of Florida A&M University Board Chair Rufus Montgomery and says she wishes it was Vitti who was quitting. Another message mocks Vitti with the words, "Special Ed in action."

Vitti says he’s seen the texts, and he’s not surprised. In an email to WJCT, Vitti says Hall’s comments speak to a hostile work environment created by certain board members. Vitti was brought into the district in 2012 as a change agent. He says sometimes his changes have caused tension, and that reached a peak when he announced boundary changes for many schools last year.

Hall says she disagrees she’s created a hostile work environment. She says anyone can pull audio recorded at the board's meetings and find she conducts herself in a professional manner.

“The relationship has to be one of mutual respect and professionalism and naturally because of the passion of the work we’re going to have disagreements but we are adults,” Hall said. “We don’t whine if we disagree and we address what’s necessary to address and that’s improving student achievement.”

 

Hall says individuals have a right to ask questions and express their opinions.

 

Robert H. Fernandez, an attorney with Zumpano Castro law firm, requested Hall’s texts and emails, along with those of board members Paula Wright and Becki Couch. A phone message to the firm asking why it targeted the three was not returned by this story’s deadline.

Hall says she was baffled the requests were only made to a few of the board members, but she says she provided what was requested.   

The original story is below:

A Duval County School Board member said she wants Superintendent Nikolai Vitti fired. Connie Hall said that in a text message she sent in September to a district staffer.

A Miami lawyer requested the emails and texts of Hall and two other board members, and a copy of the records was provided to WJCT.

 

Back in November, Hall wrote a letter to Vitti saying he lacks respect when talking to board members. Her text messages show deeper feelings.

In a September text message to School Board Internal Auditor Michelle Begley, Hall wrote, “I vote, fire him now!!!!!!!!!!!!!” In another text, Hall references the resignation of Florida A&M University Board Chair Rufus Montgomery and says she wishes it was Vitti who was quitting. Another message mocks Vitti with the words, "Special Ed in action."

Vitti says he’s seen the texts, and he’s not surprised. In an email to WJCT, Vitti says Hall’s comments speak to a hostile work environment created by certain board members. Vitti was brought into the district in 2012 as a change agent. He says sometimes his changes have caused tension, and that reached a peak when he announced boundary changes for many schools last year.

Robert H. Fernandez, an attorney with Zumpano Castro law firm, requested Hall’s texts and emails, along with those of board members Paula Wright and Becki Couch. A phone message to the firm asking why it targeted the three was not returned by this story’s deadline.

WJCT has also placed calls requesting comment from Hall and Begley.