Contract negotiations with Nikolai Vitti, the choice to lead the Detroit Public Schools Community District, will be on hold until Tuesday while a legal challenge is resolved.
A hearing was held this morning before Wayne Circuit Judge Brian Sullivan to address a request for a temporary restraining order that would bar the board of education for the district from negotiating with Vitti in private.
That legal challenge was filed by community activist Robert Davis. The board earlier this week voted to enter into contract negotiations with Vitti, the superintendent of the Duval County Public Schools in Jacksonville, Fla. Davis claims the board created a subcommittee to negotiate with Vitti. He wants to ensure those negotiations are in public.
"They've got to do that in an open meeting," Andrew Paterson, Davis's attorney, argued in court today.
But an audio recording of the meeting will have to resolve the legal challenge, as the district disputes that a subcommittee was formed.
"The board did not appoint, direct, recommend ... any subcommittee that is to negotiate a contract with the new superintendent," said Floyd Allen, the board's attorney.
A draft of the minutes doesn't mention a discussion or vote on a subcommittee, but it also doesn't include a verbatim wording of the motions that the board voted on, including the one to enter into contract negotiations with Vitti.
Sullivan ordered the district to turn over the audio recording this afternoon and another hearing, if necessary, will take place Tuesday.
Allen assured the judge that no negotiations would take place between today and Tuesday.
Allen said the board itself won't be negotiating directly with Vitti. Instead, he said, he or another attorney would be negotiating the contract with Vitti, then bringing it to the board for revisions and approval.
But Davis questioned after the hearing how Allen would be able to negotiate a contract with Vitti without any direction from the board.
"Clearly ... subconversations had to have happened," Davis said. "Otherwise, how can you engage in contract negotiations with a superintendent if you haven't been given a directive by the board? The board hires the superintendent. There had to be parameters set by the board."
The board has indicated it wants to move swiftly to bring Vitti on board. One of the motions approved at Tuesday's meeting was to have Vitti serve in a consultant role from May 1 to June 30 on a transition team that would include Interim Superintendent Alycia Meriweather, board members and other district leaders.
Contact Lori Higgins: 313-222-6651 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LoriAHiggins.
Detroit Free Press