In a vote of 5 to 2, the Duval County School Board chose a Miami, Florida bureaucrat for its next Superintendent of Schools.
The vote came after months of screenings, meetings, collegial q and a, interviews by groups and individuals. But the vote remained 5 to 2.
The vote was along party and racial lines. On the last two days of interviews with the three remaining candidates for the job, a casual observer would assume that minds had not been quite made up. Candidates Nikolai Vitti, Dale Robbins, and Kriner Cash answered a final round of questioning that lasted more than 4 hours each.
From the outside looking in it would appear that the School Board, through its consultant had chosen three equally qualified candidates who would be that “transformational” leader that had been talked about so much by board members in light of the firing of current Superintendent Ed Pratt-dannals.
But a closer look at the resumes of the three candidates revealed a not so equally yoked job experience, background, nor “transformational” attitude.
Vitti, the youngest of the trio at 35, has never been a superintendent of any school district. In fact, in span of ten years he has risen from classroom teacher to school Principal for one year, administrator in Miami/ Dade Schools and the Florida Department of Education.
Dale Robbins, outgoing administrator in Georgia’s Gwinnet County School District, was apparently never seriously considered by any of the Board members. Again; no experience as a superintendent. He, like Vitti brought no excitement to the community he served and very little public aura was shown during the interviews.
Kriner Cash, Memphis, Tennessee Schools Superintendent, more than 30 years as an administrator, Superintendent, and a clear record in drop out reduction and increased graduation rates in each job he’s undertaken, apparently did not sing the correct song to woo at least 5 of the Duval County School Board members.
At 5pm, when given the opportunity to speak just before the vote, it was clear that first term Board Member Paula Wright, along with the outgoing Chairwoman Betty Burney, were in the minority in more ways that one. Both pleaded with fellow board members to look at the experience, data, and the fact that they were about to put the fate of 125,000 students, and a quarter billion dollar budget into the hands of someone with no experience and no track record.
As anyone in politics knows, if you must issue an eleventh hour plea for your bill, you don’t have the votes. Burney and Wright, both African American, did not have the votes.
The 5 to 2 vote revealed that in spite of Florida’s Sunshine Law, there had indeed been a lot of talking “out of school.” It also revealed that to be Chairman of the Duval County School Board is to be chairman in name only. Despite all the accolades that Burney received from fellow board members for her organization of the screening process and the fairness that was presumed, the outcome was predestined.
Chairwoman Burney, who effectively voted against Vitti, must offer him a contract. The die is cast, there is no going back. The School Board has voted for a novice to run one of the largest school districts in the nation and has no idea what he will do.