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Duval School Board Talks Qualities of Interim Superintendent

Lindsey Kilbride

Duval County School Board members have begun talking about qualities they want in an interim superintendent. With current superintendent Nikolai Vitti likely taking a job in Detroit very soon, Board Chair Paula Wright said at Thursday’s meeting, the district can’t be without a leader.

“We’re going to be poised to (pick an interim superintendent) as quickly as possible,” she said. “The next step will be then discuss the characteristics we are looking for in the next superintendent if need be.”

She said the board wants a national search for superintendent, but all board members don’t agree on how far to reach for an interim.

Board member Cheryl Grymes said in it's crucial the acting superintendent be appointed from within the district’s cabinet so the person is familiar with the county.

“How do you bring someone in from the outside who has no clue about our work?” she said. “That’s how you stress out a community.”

Scott Shine agreed but board member Ashley Smith Juarez said a broader search might be better. She added organizations like the Florida School Board Association keep lists of viable interim candidates.

“I think that we should explore that as an opportunity and really understand the value of that type of short-term superintendency,” Smith Juarez said. “The board will have further discussions and I look forward to us reaching consensus on this issue.”

Board member Becki Couch agreed the search shouldn’t be narrowed to the cabinet. She said if an interim is from the district, it puts them in an awkward position once the permanent leader is hired but they’re still working for the district.

And several board members, including Smith Juarez, Grymes and Lori Hershey, agreed they don’t intend to make the interim permanent.

“The interim should be someone who would not apply for the job,” Grymes said.  

While no final decisions on the next superintendent were made, Couch said— as the board budgets for next year — the cost of these searches need to be accounted for.

Shine said in looking for a new leader, he’d like to the board to consider speaking with former Duval board members who have selected a superintendent in the past and set up a focus group to note what worked and what didn’t.

Vitti is currently negotiating a contract with the Detroit district. Wright said she'll call an interim selection meeting within 48 hours of when he reaches a contract agreement.

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