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Duval County School Board to vote on Superintendent's contract on March 3

If you've spent any time with our strategic plan or annual report, you know that visionary leadership is something we believe is vital to improving public education. That's why we partner with other nonprofits to put on candidate forums for school board elections. And it's why, in 2012, we asked you to weigh in on the qualities you wanted to see in a superintendent, and why we put out a white paper looking at characteristics of effective superintendents when the school board was in the middle of a superintendent search.

It's also why we work to elevate community voices, because we believe visionary leadership isn't just about elected and appointed decision-makers -- it's also about the leadership within the community itself.

What's happening

That's why we want to alert you to the fact that at its March 3 meeting, the Duval County School Board will take up a motion to extend Nikolai Vitti's contract to serve as superintendent for another three years.

The Duval County School Board recently evaluated Dr. Vitti on the following:

  • Relationship with the board

  • Stakeholder focus and satisfaction  

  • Staff and organizational relationships

  • Education Leadership

  • Fiscal Leadership

  • Personal Qualities

> See the breakdown of how each school board member evaluated Dr. Vitti.

Now, the board is deciding whether to extend Dr. Vitti's contract, and we want you to weigh in. Duval County School Board Chairman Cheryl Grymes has proposed extending Vitti's contract without any increases to the superintendent's salary.

> Get involved! Send an email to the school board members with your thoughts on this issue.

What we believe

Our take is this: At a time of transition for our local teachers and students to a new state assessment and Florida Standards, it's important to ensure that strong, proven leadership remains in place at the district level. And we learned in our annual public opinion poll that the community is strongly supportive of the current leadership team.

> See the results of our 2014 Annual Public Education Perceptions poll

Then and now

In 2012, the Duval County School Board sought a transformational leader that would work swiftly yet deliberately to improve student achievement in a district that was underperforming as compared with Florida's other urban districts. They found such a leader in Dr. Vitti.

He has placed an explicit focus on closing the achievement gap, prioritizing students who need the most from us. Because of that, more students are graduating than ever before, and the graduation rate is increasing faster than seen state-wide. For African-American students, the increase has been even more pronounced, increasing at four times the state average between 2012 and 2014.

> Read more about the increase in Duval County's graduation rate, which has increased 6.3 percentage points since 2012.

Currently, there's a demand for high-quality superintendents in the competitive landscape of education. There are openings all around the country in urban districts looking for a visionary leader who can transform their schools, improve educational outcomes for all children and work collectively with community partners. A contract renewal from the board would send a strong signal of confidence and solidarity for Dr. Vitti to remain here in Jacksonville and reassure the community that the trajectory of positive change will continue.

Make your voice be heard!

Here are a couple of ways you can advocate for strong, proven leadership to continue moving public education forward in Duval County.

> Write to the Duval County School Board members and share why you believe Superintendent, Dr. Vitti's contract should be extended. Use this easy tool to get started.

> Attend the next Duval County School Board meeting on March 3 at 6 p.m. and consider speaking during public comment to make your voice heard on this issue. School board meetings are held at 1701 Prudential Drive, Jacksonville FL 32207.

-- Trey Csar