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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Superintendent Vitti can’t help but demean teachers

A few weeks ago, the superintendent was saying look at our NEAP scores, what we are doing isn’t just working it is working spectacularly. Forget for a moment that Duval replaced what we were doing with Engage NY the much maligned curriculum and it was teachers not him that was doing it. 

He would like you to anyways.

Yesterday when talking about Duval’s new reading curriculum the superintendent said the following about teachers and the curriculum:

“My role is to pick a curriculum that can meet the standards for what needs to be taught,” Vitti said. “I could have picked a lower level curriculum and the average teacher does not have the skill, the time or the resources to fill in the gaps. Then we’re rolling the dice to see [if] the child gets it or not.”

The first thing that caught my eye was we said that it was his role to pick the curriculum. I want to remind you that he has no expertise in this area having only been a teacher for a cup of coffee and he routinely says it was teachers that picked the new curriculum though I have been able to find none that said, yeah this is what we wanted.

Then he talks about the average teacher not being to fill in the gaps, they just don’t have the skills and there you have it. In his opinion our schools are filled with nothing but average teachers lacking the skills to properly teach our children.

Now he is right most teachers don’t have the time nor the resources they need but is that really their fault? Shouldn’t the super take the lion’s share of blame for that one?

How does the super not realize when he talks like this about the staff, he undermines both them and the communities confidence in our schools. Thinking it would be both inaccurate and bad enough but he tales every opportunity he can to disparage the city’s teachers.


  1. I am not a Florida resident nor a teacher but that this leadership is so incompetent and openly demeaning to teachers is grounds for dismissal and a terrible waste of taxpayer dollars. Wake up Jacksonville!!!!

  2. While his comments might be demeaning in a way, he's also only been at the helm for a short duration, of which prior the Duval County public school system was abysmal at best. I'm not from Jacksonville, but upon moving here, I couldn't believe the number of people who had attended private schools locally.... and it's because of the state of the public school system in Duval County. A change was necessary, and he may be a bit abrasive, but I also feel he is being aggressive in trying to turn things around. you're bound to ruffle feathers this way... and I don't disagree with the comment about average teachers as well. It's well known that many teachers loathe teaching in Duval because of their lack of support, resources, and parental involvement. What you're left with it those that clearly excel and then those looking to make a check. The middle ground folks, ones that might be on the fence don't last because through their own struggles to be competent and make a difference, they're repeatedly confronted with greater and greater challenges. The age appropriateness of the subject matter is whiny (Southern) parents reluctant to understand the value of religious diversity in the world.... and it's a simple-minded view. Personally, I remember learning of my different friends' ethnic backgrounds and religious views during the holiday season, and being taught by my teachers that not everyone celebrates in the same way, but that we should respect that and make them feel welcome all the same. Rejecting this curriculum because it contains different ideals is exactly WHY he chose this material. Open your eyes and your minds people... knowledge is the key to success and coexistence.

    1. You have clearly missed the point. Teachers in this county teach diversity and acceptance and it is ignorant of you to think otherwise. Shame on you for suggesting that teachers oppose having an open mind and coexistence. The issue at hand is that our elementary students are forced into a curriculum that is developmentally inappropriate. Students can learn the same comprehension skills with books and stories that are more age appropriate and that they can make meaningful connections with. Did you know 3rd grade is learning all about frogs for an entire quarter while 1st grade is learning about the 3 major religions of the world? It's a curriculum full of backwards content. This superintendent takes every opportunity to absolutely insult the teachers on this district. I sat in a room full of teachers over the summer and listened to him pat himself on the back and declare that he is underpaid. I don't know who you are that wrote this comment but please, I challenge you to spend 1 day in a school here in Duval county....a Title 1 school to be exact. Take a look around and get off your soap box about opening minds and coexistence and see what is really happening. Teachers are forced to rush through lessons. Kids don't even have books in their hands and the threat of improving data is the only thing that anyone above the teacher level cares about.

    2. I responded directly to the first person's comment and then the initial article, which called into question the content for more reasons other than whether they could comprehend the information. Age appropriate is something I feel people use to censor... yes, I do agree that many of these skills could be exercised through different curriculum. But, I also don't see anything wrong with what he's given either as far as content. If it's the difficulty of the material that is the issue, then that is something the administrators and teachers alike would probably need to address in order for everyone to be on the same playing field.

      A friend of mine concisely responded to the referenced article. "So they're too young to learn about other religions but have to learn about Christianity as soon as they lose their umbilical cords?" He has a doctorate in sociology and statistics. He read the article from the Florida Times Union and gathered as again, tell me how it's not age appropriate?

      As for the personal attacks on the man.... I don't know him or what he said in that room full of teachers, but considering this entire blog is geared toward disgruntled employees of the education system, I didn't expect anything positive to be said about him. I would gladly spend a day in one of these schools, specifically a Title 1 school, with children at a young age because I believe they are still impressionable, despite growing up MUCH faster these days. I can't pretend to know what the daily life as a teacher in Duval consists of, but I do think that my personal mindset as a problem solver and creative/critical thinker would lead me down a path that would allow for general success. My soapbox about opening minds and coexistence is still as relevant now as it was before I commented... you seem to have missed the undertone of the people in opposition of the curriculum. Parent's concerned that their kids would be "persuaded to convert" are little more than bigots. That was the part I feel needed the greatest attention. Anytime you ask "why should my child be exposed to this kind of culture," you're answering your own question.

      From a teacher's perspective, I would imagine ANY new material will create droves of additional work in order to deliver it effectively and in a timely manner... BUT, if some were able and others weren't, where does the problem lie? Change is difficult, and change is often unwelcome, and with that resistance comes resentment, for the superintendent clearly. Is it not reasonable to assume that because you loathe him and dislike the material, that you wouldn't be as effective or enthused when teaching it? I'm inclined to think it's a fair assessment. So then what curriculum do the teachers want?What would be effective? What would teach students the skills they need not only for language arts, but also socially, which this touches on as well.

      Your point on 3rd grade being about frogs.... well in what capacity? Is it teaching life systems, scientific ideas, metamorphosis? I dunno... but without personally seeing the rubric, I think it's worthless to compare the two.

      All in all, the CONCEPT of what he's trying to do, enriching them with language arts skills AND a bit more cultural diversity than many in the South would prefer (I am a Southerner btw). Implementation is another problem, and one I don't know the answer to without having all the information in front of me. Could it be as simple as: Read the material, and compare and contrast? Probably not, but as the trained professionals and adults, I think a useful and effective method could be derived.

    3. Yeah, you still don't get it. I do hope you make good on your word of spending a day in a title 1 classroom. Please spend some time with teachers reading/prepping lessons, planning, looking at data, setting up centers, managing misbehavior, serving breakfast, and attending committee meetings....all before 9am. As for the frogs, that is the topic of our reading materials for reading comprehension (many different books about frogs). Just as reading about religion is the topic for reading comprehension for the 1st grade reading curriculum. Wouldn't frogs or another animal been suitable for first grade? Instead, religion was chosen. You also make way too many assumptions about how prepared students are for school eachildren day. This is why I tell you to spend a day in a title 1 school where many students don't even have their basic needs met. I don't know the superintendent personally either but I'm just stating what he literally said in a room full of teachers. Also, unless he was misquoted by the reporter, he clearly slammed the skills of the teachers he has working in his district. Maybe go troll somewhere else. These aren't disgruntled teachers. This is a place where teachers want to be treated as professionals and those who want change in this district go to see that they are not alone. Incase you haven't kept up there is a culture of fear that has been created by the higher ups. Nobody wants to speak up because they fear retaliation. I believe teachers in this district know what is right for our students through our degrees and professional experience. Ask a few and you will see.

    4. The content isn't appropriate, because students cannot understand it. They are too distracted by trying to figure out what is going, without books or pictures in their hands, to even pay attention to the actual skill being taught. You say "If it's the difficulty of the material, then that is something the administrators and teachers alike would probably need to address in order for everyone to be on the same playing field." What you don't understand is that we are not being allowed to do that. We are told to follow the script and to screw what we think. What's ironic is that the state of NY had a task force that came back and said that this content was developmentally inappropriate for K-2 and overall too fast for K-5. You can find the link on Chris's next post.

      As for your friends comment, yes because that is their parents choice. Teachers are not against teaching students about other cultures. But religion is a very sensitive topic and first graders are easily confused by it. It is something that should be handled carefully and it wasn't. A friend of mine that teaches first grade wanted to send out a letter to parents, and the ELA K-2 director told her no. Parents are upset because they weren't informed of what was being taught. The article focused on the religious aspect, but ask any primary teacher and they will tell you most of the curriculum is inappropriate either in content or in delivery of the skills. The intermediate curriculum is inappropriate, not due to content, but due to pacing. Students are expected to master skills the day they are taught and that's not right.

      I wanted Vitti originally. I thought he'd bring positive change to the district and listen to the teachers and respect us. But he doesn't. Read any of his comments and you will see that. I was unaware that he only had two years of teaching experience. That reflects constantly in the comments that he makes. He never admits when he is wrong and that is not a good quality to have in a leader. He has blamed the principals and the teachers and tries to always cover himself.

      You also state this " but I do think that my personal mindset as a problem solver and creative/critical thinker would lead me down a path that would allow for general success" Not in this district. This district allows for no creativity this year. Yes, change is hard and this is not the first new curriculum that this district has had. But it is the first one where we haven't been allowed to supplement ideas and activities. I dislike the curriculum but I have been trying to do my part to make it as engaging as possible. I bring in videos and other books about the frogs we have been leaning about and have students apply their skills with these other books but get told by district personnel to drop it. My students have been engaged in great conversation, but I feel like I have to cut it short, less a district chief walks in and questions why I'm still in my core lesson. The previous posters point about frogs/religion is that it makes more sense for third graders to learn about other cultures because they have the developmental capacity to understand that people are different, that doesn't mean that what we do/believe is wrong and that you need to act like them. There's a reason why you only see standards for using a map in first grade social studies and standards for learning about different cultural groups in third grade.

      I've never been one of those teachers to whine and complain about what I'm told to do. Until now, I've been able to take the material I've been given, the standards and teach my students. I get high marks every year, previous district specialists have used my classroom as a model. But this year, none of that seems to matter. This year no one in this district seems to be treated as a professional and in turn that is affecting our students negatively.

    5. I am an educator whose grandparents and great grandparents represent various religious backgrounds. We've always come together and celebrated and acknowledged each others' cultural and religious differences. So, I bring in a sense of appreciation towards my own students' diverse backgrounds.
      HOWEVER, it should NOT be part of my job (especially of my curriculum) to expose my students to material that is 1. developmentally inappropriate, and 2. not standards-related, which most of the read-alouds have a poor correlation to. Religion is very abstract to a 6-7 year old, and difficult for them to grasp the concept of. Here is an example of the text pertaining to Christianity that is so inappropriate and serves no purpose to the curriculum.
      "Christians, people who practice Christianity, worship at many places, including a place known as the church of the holy sepulchre. A sepulchre is a place where dead people are placed."
      Do you honestly mean to tell me you would be okay if your first grader came home, and when asked what he learned, that would be his reply? All for the sake of "change" and being "open-minded?" I don't think so. We should stick to the social studies standards (which was developed by the FLDOE) that are somewhat more appropriate to the development of first graders. But that's just my professional judgement. Who cares what a teacher has to say, right?
      But let's choose a different unit, shall we? Earlier in the year, first graders learned about folktales from different cultures. Fine, my students actually enjoyed some of the stories. One of the stories chosen was the Spanish folktale Medio Pollito. The story is basically about a disobedient chick who eventually met his own demise as a result of his noncompliance and was cooked, burnt, and tossed out of the window. My students were horrified and I quickly had to remind them that this is a story. Parents, would you feel comfortable reading aloud such a thing to your child? There are tons of good quality multicultural stories to enhance our students' comprehension and vocabulary, and most importantly aligned to the standards. Let teachers, who went to school and certified to teach, unlike Teach For America Folks, have the freedom to choose make the professional judgment to choose texts so long as they are 1. developmentally appropriate and 2. meets the rigor and alignment to the standards.
      By the way, below is an excerpt from the folktale, Medio Pollito:

      The cook lifted the pot and placed it on the fire, and the fire began to heat the water. "Please, fire," cried Medio Pollito, "do not boil this water!"

      "Medio Pollito," said the fire, "you would not help me when I was dying in the woods, and now I will not help to save you."

      Medio Pollito sweated and ached, and just when he thought he would die, the cook lifted the lid to see if his broth was ready.

      "Oh my," he said, "this chicken is burned," and he lifted Medio Pollito from the water and tossed him out an open window. The wind caught Medio Pollito and whirled him through the air so fast, the half-chick could barely breathe. His heart pounded against his chest so hard he thought he would burst.

      "Please, wind," he cried, "set me down gently," but the wind blew harder. "When I was stuck in the branches, you would not help me. Now I am punishing you."

      He spun Medio Pollito around and around and tossed him over roofs until, at last, the wet, burned, aching half-chick landed on top of the highest church steeple in Madrid.

      From that day on, Medio Pollito turned round and round atop that church steeple. He stands there to this day, and if you go to Madrid, you will see him with his single leg and one wing and one eye and half a head and half a beak, twirling atop that steeple."

  3. This curriculum was FREE and that is the main reason it was purchased. Viti went on about the money the district would save. He could have purchased quality curriculum that meets standards, but he wanted to save money. The stories for 1st grade are extremely boring. Besides the fact that the students have no books. We show a picture on the projector and read a boring story that is far above their heads.