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Duval School Board To Open Bids For Superintendent Search Firm In January

Lindsey Kilbride
Duval School Board members revise RFP before opening it up for seach firms answers.

The Duval County School Board is hoping to hire a new superintendent by this summer — That’s what board members set as the goal at Tuesday’s meeting.

The school board will be selecting a superintendent with the help of an outside search firm. Tuesday, board members agreed to open up the request for proposal process Jan. 4. Search firms will then have three weeks to respond and the board hopes to pick one by March at the latest. That time table means the board could hire a new superintendent by June or July.

“That will allow the incoming person to have an opportunity to see what has been discussed in terms of curriculum, in terms of budget etcetera and help to shape the 2018-19 school year,” School Board Chair Paula Wright said.

The board members will interview three or four search firms and rate them on their experience, scope of services and price.

During Tuesday’s meeting the Jacksonville Civic Council sent out an email to board members requesting they wait until after November 2018 to select a new leader. At that point at least two new school board members will start serving after the election. The council used the school board’s experience with former Duval Superintendent Nikolai Vitti as an example of why the board should wait. Vitti had some clashes with board members.

“The board extended an offer of employment to Nikolai Vitti on September 25, 2012, just 41 days before the election of four new School Board members. While he worked hard to implement education reform measures, we believe you’ll agree that the lack of alignment between Dr. Vitti and the board negatively impacted education reform,” said Civic Council Chair Ed Burr in the letter.

School Board members had no comment saying they had not seen the letter yet. The council also offered to help with the search process.

Credit Duval County Public Schools
The Duval County School Board reviewed community feedback regarding its choosing a new district leader.

During the meeting, the board also reviewed survey feedback about what qualities the public would like to see in a new leader. A total of 963 people answered. About half of respondents were teachers and other district employees, and 22 percent were students.

“What we’re hearing from people is that one the superintendent has some teaching experience, have worked as a superintendent before, but who’s compassionate and can share respect for each other, but who's also able to move the district,” Wright said.

Respondents also said it’s important the new superintendent has experience working in a large, urban district and will promote a positive culture and morale. For personal qualities, respondents said they want someone who is innovative, a problem solver and has personal integrity.

Credit Duval County Public Schools
The Duval County School Board reviewed community feedback regarding its choosing a new district leader.

Wright said the board will continue to engage the public to get more feedback.

Patricia Willis has been interim superintendent since May when former superintendent Vitti left Jacksonville to take a job leading the Detroit Public Schools Community District.

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

Lindsey Kilbride was WJCT's special projects producer until Aug. 28, 2020. She reported, hosted and produced podcasts like Odd Ball, for which she was honored with a statewide award from the Associated Press, as well as What It's Like. She also produced VOIDCAST, hosted by Void magazine's Matt Shaw, and the ADAPT podcast, hosted by WJCT's Brendan Rivers.