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Superintendent Vitti is both disrespectful and disingenuous when it comes to librarians. (rough draft)

From the Times Union: Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said most high schools and middle schools in 2013-14 hired more teachers for subjects such as reading, math, science or social studies to meet state mandates for classroom sizes. Principals devised class schedules and hired the teachers needed to avoid millions in potential class size violation fees, he said, but that left less money for schools to hire media specialists.

For about five years, Duval’s board and superintendents have funded about half of each school’s media specialist’s salary, leaving it up to principals to use discretionary money for the rest. When given a choice, most principals had other priorities, Vitti said.

“I believe they see more return on investment by investing in teachers and instructional coaches,” Vitti said, adding that he also put reading coaches and reading interventionists into many schools. Reading coaches specialize in helping teachers and reading interventionists help below-grade-level students.

Vitti added: “If I add media specialists I want to see their roles evolve … Some of them already do this, but I want to make it explicit that it’s all hands on deck.”

First the class size amendment is no joke, but the thing is it didn’t just start two years ago when Vitti started cutting librarians. It has been around for nearly a decade and it wasn’t until Vitti got here that librarians suddenly became unimportant.

Next when talking about return on investment, two years ago, Vitti had schools budget for fifty less students in his zero sum budgeting. Now I have read that zero sum budgeting is probably a good thing every so often. It cuts out the waste rather than just letting budgets roll over each year but let’s not pretend principals all of a sudden went, “what do we need a librarian for”, when they were forced to cut staff.  Many cut librarians because the district gave them no other option.

Finally his disdain of school based staff is bordering on pathological, Vitti added: “If I add media specialists I want to see their roles evolve … Some of them already do this, but I want to make it explicit that it’s all hands on deck.”

What does he think librarians have been doing? Sitting with their feet up all day reading cosmo eating bon bons. No schools librarians have been working just as hard as everybody else to get students ready and for him to denigrate them is despicable, par for the course when it comes to teachers but at the same time despicable.

No other district with a reading problem thinks it is acceptable to cut librarians and turn libraries into testing centers but Duval and that should really tell you all that you need to know.


  1. Let's be clear about this. Two years ago, Superintendent Vitti told principals that instructional coaches should only do coaching. That is when this coach stopped being test coordinator. Guidance counselors already had been removed from the role. That left APs, already overburdened. Dr. Vitti gave principals a choice: they could have a full-time dedicated test coordinator or a media specialist. Their choice. Not to knock principals, it is a recognition of the overtesting problem that all principals chose to have a test coordinator. That is when our media specialists disappeared and our libraries closed.

  2. Funnily enough, when my principal learned that the test coordinator could not be assigned additional duties, he regretted his choice and said he should have kept his media specialist and assigned her the testing duties.

  3. Vitti is real dirty and one day someone is going to expose him. Those who know, know and those who dont will.

  4. During a Feb. 25 meeting with a group of media specialists with Media Educators for Duval in Action (MEDIA), Vitti emphasized the importance he thought the group held in the school system.

    "The role I see is for media specialists 
in every elementary, middle and high school moving forward. I want to caution you 
that I can have any vision I want, but the Board has to approve the budget," Vitti said at the meeting.

    What a difference two years make....,5535

  5. It's clear media specialists have been getting a free ride this whole time. It's high time we turn them into testing coordinators so pleasure reading can become the equivalent of running laps in gym class for failing to follow directions. I know teachers in magnet high schools whose single biggest complaint is that their students can't read. No, I'm not talking about technical manuals but basic reading skills. We've tested them so much they hate to read & who can blame them? The only reason to read now is to pass a silly test that won't matter to anyone but Vitti & his buddies a few years from now. Free voluntary reading(FVR) is one of the greatest predictors of academic success but it's nearly extinct because Vitti doesn't believe students deserve the same opportunity he received in his adolescence.

    1. True. Students CANNOT read anymore. Ask any middle or high school teacher. When asked to read anything, they stare into space, put their heads down, look for a pencil, do anything EXCEPT read. They will lie and tell you they did read that opening paragraph, but if you ask them anything about it, they'll admit that they "skimmed part of it." They think reading is the most dreadful chore. For three years now, my class bookshelf has done nothing but collect dust.

      Unfortunately, more and more teachers accommodate them by playing audio or showing movies of the book. When you do anything for children that they can do for themselves, you send a subtle, nonverbal message that they are incapable, it's too hard, or its dreadful. When you refuse to tie your 10-yr old's shoes, you are saying, "You can do it. It's not beyond your capabilites. You will improve with practice. It's a skill you need."

      We are dooming them to minimum wage jobs, if they can even find one. They will have to accept what they're told by people who CAN read, which destroys critical thinking abilities. My high school students have the vocabularies of 3rd graders, literally. They cannot use simple words in a sentence, because they don't know if it's a noun, verb, adjective, etc. Why do we cripple them, instead of telling them to keep trying? Why are we giving ambulatory students wheelchairs? Why are teachers suggesting to kids that reading is hard, when reading is useful and pleasurable?

    2. The real kicker is that students now read excerpts in ELA class (novel studies), get interested in the book and ask to read the whole thing, but DCPS won't allow it. Probably because some of the novels they choose have sensitive sections that touch on sexual content or have cuss words in the text.

    3. Wow! That should be a crime. They don't allow it?

  6. As a (happily) retired DCPS school library media specialist I can say that as a group we were always "all hands on deck" in the schools where I served. I went to work early and came home late and worked many, many unpaid hours during the summers too, all for the benefit of the students and staff of my schools. It's amazingly hard to believe that the superintendent of a district filled with students with such low reading skills would denigrate the need for school library media specialists! Of course, the media specialists do MUCH more than promote reading but even if all they did was read to the students and encourage them to read - for pleasure! - they would still be contributing greatly to the education of our children.

  7. The shuttering of media centers and the lack of at-home textbooks for student use are my two biggest complaints with Vitti. Every year, he ties our hands even more when it comes to instruction. As a Language Arts teacher, I incorporate research that requires more than just Googling a topic. Without access to databases at the school level, I have to figure out a way around this through the JPL system, or FSCJ for dual enrolled students. The fact that he stated in the FTU articles that Language Arts teachers are still utilizing the media center for research is a flat-out lie. We CAN'T use a media center if we don't have one! Even if the media center was online would help, but ours isn't. The entire media center fell apart when our media specialist left. And he had no right putting principals in the position of deciding whether to have a media specialist or a testing coordinator. Now he makes the principals look like the bad guys. Students can't even utilize the media center during lunch sessions for studying. It's always tied up with testing. Truly a disgrace...

  8. He ties our hands because he has no regard for our intelligence or experience. See, he is a Harvard man and we are just peons who require just enough money to survive so that he can continue to USE us as well as the students in his experiments.

  9. Vitti has put principals in an awful position & his sycophant Ashley Smith-Juarez is there to back him up every step of the way.

    I want to caution you 
that I can have any vision I want, but the Board has to approve the budget," Vitti said at the meeting.

    Vitti will blame the board when he talks out of his 5th point of contact & the board will take it because that's what they do.

    Santos hit the nail on the head. It's a good thing she's retired because she would not have a job for speaking so freely under this regime. As a former DCPS media specialist with multiple stints with Duval County I know exactly how much the county values the position. Answer: not much. You could be a rockstar & it wouldn't matter. Most of the great MS that really enjoy their jobs have left for more hospitable teaching environments i.e., Clay, St Johns, anywhere else. The ones that are left are nothing more than glorified substitute teachers to be shuttled between schools.

    In my former life I worked with struggling readers who were a few grades behind. I used everything at my disposal to get them interested in reading. Graphic novels, free comics, book trailers...anything to light that spark. I don't care what they read as long as they are trying to read. Every kid is interested in something. You have to find that thing. I would tell kids to get books that they're interested even if they couldn't read one word in it. The passion has to be there to read before the skills.

    As a kid I hated when the MS told me what was "appropriate" for me to read so I spent alot of time in the public library where nobody told me what I could or couldn't read. Unfortunately many of my former students do not have the same access I did to public libraries.

    Question: Why doesn't Hendricks Ave(AJS district) have a full time MS? Surely they can afford half a MS salary when their annual fundraiser garners north of $50K. I've been at schools that lose $$ on their fundraisers. My only guess is that they don't need a FT one bc parental involvement(volunteers) makes it a moot point. So every year they spend that $$ on various things that they don't need i.e, more tech stuff, laptops, books in the media center w/o someone to staff it full time. They literally have run out of stuff to spend $$ on it so pretty soon they'll just stockpile it for a rainy day I guess. They should prolly just donate it to schools that really need it but that's not the American way. That's why we have churches & soup kitchens.