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Let’s talk about discipline in Duval. (rough draft)

I believe it is entirely possible that for years Duval suspended too many kids when alternative punishments were available and I also believe it is possible that too many kids have been arrested when civil citations or alternative punishments could have been enforced as well.

That being said what I know for a fact is that way too many children haven't received anything approaching a consequence for thier poor behavior; now to be fair this was a problem the district had before Superintendent Vitti arrived, he just exasperated it.

If I have heard it once I have heard it a hundred times and that’s teachers have just given up writing referrals because either nothing happens or the situation gets worse as the child returns feeling both angry and entitled because that is what happens when they get away with poor behavior. Likewise this has led to poor behavior in kids who otherwise wouldn’t even think about acting up. When they see their peers get away with it then think they can as well.

In today’s Times Union, they have printed the annual “discipline is better than ever” piece and you know you want to believe it, you really do, I do. I think we all hope that the district is being forthright and honest, and things are heading in the right direction unfortunately it’s hard to believe the district and I think one key sentence is why.  

From the Times Union:

“It’s not by chance (the improvement of discipline), that’s for sure,” Vitti said. “I remember being a dean of discipline in New York City and a principal, always in tough schools. Students are going to make mistakes, and when it comes to your office, you have to make a decision: How are you going to handle it?”

Good gosh reading that sentence pumps me up, finally we have a super in place who has been battle tested and he knows his stuff, with him as a leader its full speed ahead and nothing can stop us right! Right! Right?!?

Sigh except I can read a resume too and this is Vitti’s.

He was the dean for one year at the Fordham Leadership Academy a very small high school in the Bronx. I can’t speak to its enrolment in 03-05 when Vitti was there but right now it’s 371. Look I don’t want to discount Vitti’s service and I bet there were challenging kids there as well, but come on this was not the school that Principal Joe Clark cleaned up.

Now the middle school he worked at as Dean, Joseph Wade middle school, was bigger, 586 kids and I bet tougher too (middle school kids be crazy), but he was only there one year.

Then he wasn’t a principal till he arrived in Miami after first spending one year as an intern to the super and another as the knowledge Information officer in Miami Dade because you know those two positions prepare you to be a principal. He served one year as principal at Homestead Middle. Now think about this, he was a teacher for two, a dean for two more and then he skipped being an assistant principal and after two tears at the district office went right to running a school. Um what am I missing here?  Plus he only stayed there one year! Again I don’t want to discount him being there but to me his one and done speaks volumes.

Oy vey, so yeah he’s right he was a dean in New York for two years and a principal in Miami for one but when you look at the details of his resume, I wonder how he even got those gigs.
I also don’t feel so gung ho that he actually knows what he is talking about.

I feel like he oversold his resume there and resumes are where everybody knows you are already overselling. You may disagree, but that’s typical of how he does everything. Anything that can be spun as positive is the best thing since sliced bread and anything that is negative well, that’s the state’s fault (or our librarians, math teachers, principals and assistant principals). He’s got no control over those things.

Here are a few more statement from the Times Union that are telling”

Though arrests for 2015-16 are down, the 2014-15 year marked the most on-campus arrests in recent years. There were 343 arrests — 82 more than the previous year.
Vitti said 2014-15 saw a lot of community violence and crime spilling over into the schools, citing numerous instances of weapons on campus.
But, he said, there were also examples where school employees could have done a better job in opting to use the code of conduct instead of arrest.
See like I said, last year it was the community and some school employees that should have done a better job. Good things that happen are the result of his leadership and experience, bad things, well ya can’t depend on the community or some of the district’s employees to get it right.

So according to the district arrests and serious infractions are down, but I have serious reservations whether it is because arrestable and serious infractions are happening less frequency or we’re doing a better job at just enduring them.

The truth is we all know that we are in trouble and that things are not nearly as rosy as the super would have you believe. The truth is we really need the truth not flowery statements and massaged statistics if we are truly interested in improving.

Finally if you think i am wrong and you feel like discipline really is improving, please let me know. I would love to be wrong about this one.


  1. Joe!! Your post is right on target, as usual. Teachers do NOT write referrals as much as they used to and yes, children are doing more and more because there are simply NO consequences. In fact, teachers are frowned upon for writing referrals, as these are viewed as a poor classroom management. At my school, we review the number of referrals per grade level on a regular basis, as if WE have done something wrong!

    I am curious...are you a teacher? If so, could this blog get you in trouble? I love reading your posts, don't get me wrong, but just wanted to know.

  2. Thanks I am a teacher in the district and if you can get in trouble for telling the truth I say bring it on.

  3. Thanks for speaking out Chris - and of course this FTU story follows right on the heels of several violent fights at a local high school (geographically on the westside). Isn't it nice to know that so many of these fights have been filmed, placed on social media and zero arrests have been made.

  4. They did a random search of students getting off the bus at my HS recently. But they didn't want to find anything, so you should have seen the nerds they picked out! So they can say they did a search (to keep kids safe) and they didn't find anything (your kids are safe). But when teachers and students asked security to search Michael Saddler for a gun, they refused. He shot his friend to death earlier this year.

  5. Vitti was always going to his next job in the job he held. You forgot the state job he held for a year in between schools. I just wish this had been a one year gig, we should have been so lucky. Principals are also afraid to have too many referrals because they are called on the carpet for it or worse; fired because he "lost confidence" in them. His staff has about the same amount of experience and then like to judge others when they have never done the work themselves. I get a kick out of them walking through the schools making judgements with the TNTP crew. I usually have more experienced and have improved the academic performance of more children than the entire gang combined.

  6. Kids no longer have to dress out at my high school. So it's easy to skip and get lost in P.E. Just sit in the crowd on the bleachers and play with your phone for an hour and a half. Coaches don't take roll either, have no idea who should be there and who shouldn't. P.E. is nothing but a GPA inflator, because of course they get an A.

    1. If your school is anything like mine the PE teachers have over 80 students each with 3 or 4 teachers in the gym at a time. How can they possibly be expected to know who should be there and who shouldn't? It's crazy!

    2. I am confused. Aren't the teachers in charge of their discipline plan? What happened to standing on a number and getting marked absent. Why not implement this procedure? I am not a PE teacher so I can not pretend to understand your issues, but I do know a sound body is as important as a sound mind. Your curriculum leaders should be ashamed of themselves or themself if they have let the district bully them out of their beliefs. These people should be passionate enough to stand up for your discipline. You have lost your purpose for existing and when that happens you will cease to exist. Why do you think we have so many charters? Our entire system here in Duval has lost its reason for existing which should be about educating children not appeasing politicians. Therefore one day we will cease to exsist.