JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Duval County Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. Nikolai Vitti, is a finalist for a superintendent position for the Detroit Public Schools Community District.
He is one of the final three, running up against Derrick R. Coleman, a Detroit native who is the current superintendent for River Rouge Community Schools, and Orlando Ramos, the regional superintendent for Milwaukee Public Schools, according to our news partners, the Detroit Free Press.
Dr. Vitti, who has been with DCPS for four years, has issued a statement and said he was recruited by a search firm. He also stated that he is from Detroit.
The Free Press reported that the Detroit Board of Education selected the finalists Thursday night.
In the statement, Dr. Vitti said:
"It has been an honor to work in a district and more importantly on a team that has been recognized nationally and statewide for our work with the shift in standards and curriculum selection, innovative school programming, leadership development, community engagement through a strong communication and marketing plan, expansion of the arts, narrowing the achievement gap, supporting overage students, and improving low performing schools.
Over the years, I have been asked and recruited to consider opportunities in other school districts, charter networks, and in the private sector. I have not considered those opportunities for over four years. Most recently, I was recruited by a search firm to consider returning home to serve the City of Detroit as its superintendent. Right now there are few, if any, challenges on a national level to traditional public education more than in Detroit. It was too difficult to walk away from this challenge and opportunity. Detroit is, and will always be in my DNA. I feel a sense of responsibility to explore the opportunity to determine if there is a match between the newly elected school board and me.
As those who know my work ethic and focus, my attention to my current responsibilities as superintendent will not be ignored as I explore this opportunity."
Scott Shine, a DCPS board member and close friend to Vitti told First Coast News that he believes this is a loss for the school district.
"I'm concerned... it's very difficult to find a talented superintendent," Shine said.
Shortly after the news, Shine wrote in a statement: "Should Dr. Vitti decide to leave DCPS, it would certainly be a loss to our public school system and community... He has done an exceptional job with our school district and I will support him and recommend him in seeking the Superintendent position in Detroit, if that is the direction he wants to take."
Shine also noted how "impressed" he's been with handling opposition. "He picks himself up and he just keeps going," he said.
Back in September, Duval County School Board chair, Ashley Smith Juarez, called for Vitti's resignation for what she deemed were "educational failures." First Coast News has reached out to Juarez for a statement on Vitti's job prospect, but we have not heard back.
Shine didn't say, however, if Juarez's allegations had anything to do with Dr. Vitt's decision to apply for other opportunities outside of Duval County, but he did say in his statement that the fact that Vitti has roots in Detroit played a factor.
Trey Csar, the President of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund, also released the following statement in response to the news:
"I will never forget the first time I met Nikolai Vitti and learned first hand of his tremendous passion and motivation to make sure that every child, no matter who they are or where they live, has the opportunity to, as he likes to say, live up to their God-given potential. Under Dr. Vitti and the school board's leadership, our district graduation rate is at an all-time high and no longer the lowest of Florida's urban districts."
DCPS is the 15th largest school district in the United States.
Detroit school officials reported that they received 75 applications.
Click here to read the Free Press article.