Last night’s Duval County School Board meeting lasted until midnight, hours longer than anyone there anticipated. At one point in the evening, School Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti ran down a list of rumors and concerns running rampant through the district.
Saying it would only take 5 minutes, Superintendent Nikolai Vitti put up a Power Point slide with a half dozen bullet points he said were causing a lot of confusion, and then proceeded to deal with each one.
Proposals to end transportation for students in small gifted programs, to move programs for students with emotional and behavioral disorder to neighborhood schools, to group pre-kindergarten and elementary school students by readiness or ability and to put a media specialist in every school: not happening, Vitti says.
There will, however, be a change in the way assistant principals are assigned this year.
"For the first time in our district, principals have complete autonomy to select their assistant principals," said Vitti. "I do believe that as captains of schools, you do need to pick your team if you’re going to be held accountable."
New principal assignments, and the hiring and firing of personnel called for in Vitti’s reorganization plan, are expected to be wrapped up in just a few weeks.
" Once July comes and the reorganization is complete, and our schools are fully staffed based on the allocation plan, things will settle."
There are also changes in the works for overage middle and high school students.
The school board voted last night to establish special overage programs in the schools with the highest number of students who are 2 or more grade levels behind. High schools receiving these programs: Forrest, Jackson, Raines, Randolph, Ribault, Ed White and Wolfson. Middle schools: Butler, Gilbert, Northwestern and Arlington
Vitti told board members this new school-within-a-school approach will give overage students the intensive instruction and the support they need at their home school.
"And this is, I think, the value of the program: they will still go to elective classes. So although they’re, in a sense, self-contained, they’re still functioning in the greater culture of the school because they’re going to those elective classes. So I think that’s an opportunity in not disenfranchising students," he said.
One area of concern among board members was for overage students who don’t attend one of the targeted schools.
According to Vitti, those students will be able to go to The Bridge of Northeast Florida which provides everything from academic instruction to job training, or to the James Weldon Johnson Academic and Training Center.
He says he'll also look into the possibility of allowing those students to transfer to one of the target schools as long as there's room for them in the program there.
The school board's next budget workshop is June 20th.
Students head back to school August 19th.