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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The kerfuffle between the school board and superintendent explained (rough draft)

First some background.

When superintendent Vitt was hired he promised huge gains which would be delivered shortly and only Becki Couch of the current board actually voted to hire him. Paula Wright was on the board but she voted against him.

For the first two years the board gave superintendent Vtti seemingly without question whatever he asked for.

Then about two years ago that started to change, first when the super proposed open enrollment, something he back pedaled on after a couple weeks because the community pushed back and with the proliferation of charter schools.

This all came to a head about a year ago when Vitti made several radical proposals/boundary changes for schools mostly on the north and west sides of town. Their representatives, Couch, Hall and Wright, coincidentally all educators as well, pushed back and the board was split into two faction, those three on one side and Shine, Grymes, Fischer and Smith Juarez on the other.

Then this past summer with Fischer having resigned and Smith- Juarez separating a bit from her mentor Gary Chartrand and I believe her tiring of her treatment at the hands of Shine and the superintendent, the alliances started to shift.    .

This takes us to two weeks ago when the board approved a new budget not because all the members were comfortable with it but because they were statutorily required to do so.

And what about those gains he promised? After a first year bloodbath they have been modest at best.

That catches us up.

When setting goals for the district mostly having to do with the achievement gap between white and minority students, the education faction of the board wanted aspirational goals while the superintendent was only wiling to offer modest ones.

This went back and fourth and finally Mrs. Smith Juarez asked him to take his talents elsewhere.

Scott Shine got wind of this and alerted his contacts in the press and business world who have been overwhelmingly, I would argue despite the evidence, pro Vitti.

Huge amounts of pressure came to bear and ASJ walked back her intent to replace the superintendent.

Last Friday the board met, recriminations were thrown in both directions by board members and ASJ and Vitti apologized to each other.

They met again Monday to discuss the achievement gap between white and minority students that started the kerfuffle, and the education faction of the board wanted aspirational goals while the superintendent, probably feeling emboldened and despite the fact he had changed his tune last week signaling a willingness to offer higher goals was now again only wiling to offer modest ones.

And yes folks that means we were right back to where we started

Strangely enough they were also both right.

I don't believe aspirational goals are the way to go. I agree with the superintendent we need reasonable and achievable goals. Huge goals that we most likely won't meet would most likely demoralize the district and lead to more finger pointing.

At the same time I thin ASJ was right and that it was time for the super to go, though I look at teacher moral, discipline, communication and the Engage NY curriculum he picked, that are all dreadful.

There you go.

Welcome to Duval County.


  1. They're all wrong--every single one. They are basing their targets on test scores, not on multiple measures that actually determine how well students are learning and how well schools are functioning to meet their needs. Test scores in the Common Core era (rebranded as FSA here) do NOT measure student achievement. Until the board and superintendent realize this, the infighting, squabbling, and backstabbing will continue.

  2. Suarez has found out information on Vitti. That's why they are fighting. There are a lot of unethical things happening with the district. I am surprised the actual transcripts from the meeting have not been released!

  3. Although I am by no means a Vitti fan, I agree with at least the idea that literacy growth takes time. People who think an 8th grader who reads at a 2nd grade level can be brought to an 8th grade level within a year or two simply don't understand how vocabulary acquisition works. Learning how to read and write takes time, loads of time, and some students come to school (kindergarten) reading above level (sometimes 1st-3rd grade) because of their parents/community while others struggle with writing their names; studies have shown that more educated parents (doesn't have to be formally educated), usually produce more literate kids. Other kids don't have that benefit and although they can grow, the gap is almost impossible to completely close as the kids from professional families learn at an exponential rate, whereas kids from more disadvantaged backgrounds grow at a steady rate. Every kid can learn, but not every kid will learn at the same rate. What Vitti suffers from is the belief that a program like Achieve 3000 is all that is needed to produce growth, so he doesn't invest in libraries (ours doesn't have books any longer) nor does he invest in books for students to take home and read. Instead, we have class sets, and when I teach seniors who tell me that they have never been asked to read a part or whole book at home, how is that preparing kids to be successful in college???? Vitti doesn't want to invest the time or money into students. He is hoping that some program will work magic. It just won't, and we will be sitting here years from now lamenting the same issues, primarily because people don't understand how to promote literacy, and no district wants to teach parents how to read with their kids so they come semi-prepared to learn. When it comes to it, schools simply cannot do everything. They were never meant to. I learned how to read because my parents read with me, so in pre-kindergarten, I was already reading small books. There exists the disparity, and it will always exist, unfortunately, to some degree. Once again, every kid can learn and grow, but the pace cannot necessarily be dictated by a test that constantly changes. The school board needs to get it together and listen.