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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Did Superintendent Vitti set up the DCSB up so the Mayor can take it over.

I think Superintendent Vitti ran up the budget so eventually the mayor will take over the school board. There I said it.

I know what some of you are thinking after reading that, you probably think my tin foil hat is on to tight and fair enough, but please read to the end and then see if you feel the same way.

DCPS went over budget by 21 million dollars during the 16-17 school year and despite the fact they had enough in reserves to cover in and did not dip below the statutory three percent in reserves Jason Fischer and Lenny Curry have been very critical of the board.

Read that again, they have been very critical of the board, not former superintendent Vitti who was in day to day control of the budget but the board including Becki Couch who sounded the alarm bells last year that this was going to happen and despite the fact that even though Jason Fischer quit the board last July, he had to be involved in crafting the budget, their ire is pointed directly at the board and no one else.

What do Vitti, Curry and Fischer have in common? A close relationship with local business man and donor Gary Chartrand. Chartrand played a huge roll in Vitti coming to Jacksonville and was one of his biggest supporters and he and his friends have given thousands and thousands to Fischer and Curry or pacs’ that support him, and these donations and support have paid off as well.

Vitti, despite a dubious record recommended the KIPP charter school receive an unprecedented expansion. Fischer introduced legislation to give KIPP a half million dollars and where that bill was ultimately vetoed (though they received lots of extra money from the state over the years) he also championed HB 7069 which will greatly benefit charter schools which Chartrand is an advocate for, including KIPP, which Chartrand brought to town.  Furthermore, the Curry administration recently changed the rules at the Jacksonville Children’s Commission and they gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to the, you guess it, KIPP charter school.

So, what does this have to do with giving the mayor the power to appoint the board? Well read on.
It’s no secret that Gary Chartrand is a huge proponent of charter schools and would like to see many of the city’s schools replaced with them. Since 2010 despite a poor track record here the amount of charter schools has increased 300 percent and this doesn’t count all the times they have been allowed to expand.

So, Chartrand has made real progress seeing his goal fulfilled but since as a group charters have done so poorly here and there have been several recent high-profile closures, charter school growth in Jacksonville has stunted.

Now let me ask you a question, when you want to achieve something but aren’t completely successful do you give up or do you tackle it from another direction? Chartrand first tried buying himself a school board, Fischer, Grymes, Jones, Shine and others all took money from him and his friends, but why buy a school board, 7 people with different motivations and ideas, when all you have to do is buy one mayor.  

The city’s Charter Revision Commission, the once a decade group that meets to discuss how the city is run will be here before we know it. In 2010, just as Chartrand was beginning his collection of school board members and politicians, doing away with the school board and replacing them with a mayoral appointed board was a big discussion.

From the Times Union in 2010:  Dramatic changes to the Duval County school system, including how board members are selected, are needed to improve student performance, members of the Charter Revision Commission said today.

A majority indicated they do not support keeping the entire School Board elected, paving the way for proposals that could allow Jacksonville's mayor to appoint one or more members of the board.
Nothing came of those recommendations back in 2010 but that’s not to say nothing would come this go around, especially if certain politicians, the representative from Mandarin and the Mayor for instance started to push for mayoral appointment of board members, to quietly appease a powerful donor.

Right now, the state constitution revision commission is meeting, with only one-member hailing from Northeast Florida, attorney Hank Coxe. I expect sooner or later recommendation taking power away from school boards and pushing school choice, which is just another word for privatization to be coming fast and furious.  

Maybe I haven’t convinced you, you have forgotten all about the USS Maine and the Gulf of Tonkin but would anybody be willing to be there isn’t a proposal floated to give mayoral control of our schools when the charter revision commission starts to meet and that they don’t point to the district being over budget as a reason why? Anybody want to bet?

I don’t think there has been anyone more critical of the board over the last few years but even I don’t want to see who picks the board taken out of the hands of the voters.  


  1. You wanna bet if Vitti were here they wouldn't be saying anything about $21M. Of course if that were the case we wouldn't be talking about a lawsuit. But just wait. There's gonna be tremendous pressure on the board to appoint Addison Davis superintendent come January or at the end of this school year. They'll say he knows all the "players" having been here 20 years plus he has a year experience as a super in clay.

  2. No one, not even Vitti, is that smart. More likely, he's been hiding shortages in the budgets for his time in Duval and now that he's gone, it's come out. And all politicians subscribe to Rahm's philosophy, even the boot-licking ones, Jason Fischer come to mind? "Never let a good crisis go to waste." Too bad this isn't a good crisis. These pols will wind up with egg on their faces.