Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Perspective on the Superintendent--Part Six and Wrap-Up

And the news broke that the superintendent, Nikolai Vitti, was a finalist for the superintendency of the Detroit school system.

He contends that a national recruitment firm contacted him. But to quote a famous movie line when the rogue lost the girl to the hero in a matter of minutes, "She must have been willing."

No one can blame the superintendent for looking out for his interests. Anyone in his position would have developed a backup plan and explored options given the history of the county and his fraught relationship with the board, the support of the foundations notwithstanding.

Act One is closing. Whether the superintendent remains in Jacksonville, leaves for Detroit, or accepts a position at some other place, the era is ending.

It is possible that the interest of the superintendent in the Detroit position is a gambit to strengthen his position vis a vis the board members as he faces an uncertain majority who will continue to support his ideas and proposals.

Despite the statement of the head of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund as well as his most dependable board member, wishing him well in his future endeavors, I imagine a lot of behind the scenes meetings and phone calls have been taking place--asking what could be done to convince the superintendent to stay--this weekend.

Perhaps the next few days will bring an announcement that he is withdrawing from consideration as he remains committed to Jacksonville and its schools. Then it will be up to good journalists to ferret out the details of the deal that was made.

Even if the superintendent remains, things have changed and Act Two will begin.

As the Detroit board faces a March 31 deadline to select a new superintendent, we will know soon.

A personal note: I am turning 60 years old in August. I mention this to mean that for older people who have lived a lot of life, we have experience that tempers our judgment and our views.

I was excited when Nikolai Vitti came to Jacksonville and announced a dramatic reduction in testing. However, I had lived enough life to take a wait and see attitude. Soon enough, I saw some things mentioned in this series that made me cautious.

I was never a fan, but then, I am not a hater either. Dr. Vitti has moved the school system forward even though the test scores do not reflect all the progress that has been made. The board does him a disservice when they judge him solely by the letter grade a terrible, flawed, erroneous state system awards our schools.

He was correct to develop broader measures for schools and to share those on the DCPS website. JPEF led the way in this.

He has procured resources for our schools that other superintendents could not. He gathered community support, especially from those who had the buckeroos to make a difference, for our schools. He was willing to innovate and try new ideas, breaking the stifling demeanor of the old-timers that condemned the school system to mediocrity.

But he has been controversial. He has run roughshod over personnel in his eagerness to move quickly. Careers have been ruined that had much to contribute. And it's not about him. Perhaps that is his greatest weakness: his focus upon himself.

While others have called often for his resignation, I did not and I do not. Yes, there are ways I wish he would change, most especially in really listening to teachers and showing them respect.

But I recognize that the superintendent was following a path he agreed upon with the board--a path that will not change if he leaves. If we do not have Vitti, we will have someone like him.

La plus que ca change, la plus que la meme chose.