A group of about 40 Duval County parents and community members Monday gave district leaders a list of attributes they want in a new superintendent.
They said they want someone who will hold high expectations for children, who will ensure that students with disabilities have a greater voice in schools, and someone who will make it a priority to involve students’ parents and their community in their education.
They want someone who will continue emphasizing “restorative justice” techniques instead of negative punishments for students who break the rules. They want someone who’ll spread the tools for college-readiness beyond magnet schools into all high schools. And they want a leader who will let teachers have more flexibility in classroom lessons and the curriculum, parents said.
Some parents suggested that the new leader improve safety at schools, including better lighting and signage around schools or metal detectors at high schools.
April Robinson, mother of a sixth-grader who is diabetic, says the new leader should increase nurses or school staff who are trained to support students with chronic illness at schools, “somebody who will be accountable for what’s going on with children who are diabetic.”
Duval leaders took their suggestions at the community meeting at Terry Parker High, one of four meetings about the new superintendent and new district goals. Another meeting is set for Wednesday at Ed White High School at 6 p.m.
“We are being inclusive, we are being receptive and we are committed,” Paula Wright, chairwoman of the School Board, told the audience. Four other board members attended.
Richard Danford, a community member, said it’s important to hire a leader with “interpersonal skills that will allow the superintendent to interface effectively, not only with employees but externally.”
Felicia Gaines, Jean Ribault Senior High advisory council chair, said she wants a superintendent who will see to it that no more schools are in danger of closure or takeover by a charter school or outside entity because of persistently low grades. Currently Duval has three schools in such danger if they don’t achieve C grades this year.
Tim Miller, a parent who frequently speaks out for students with disabilities, says it’s important that Duval’s new top educator show respect to everyone, including those with views counter to him or her. His wife, Darlene Miller, said Duval’s former superintendent, Nikolai Vitti, sometimes struggled with that.
Vitti left the district in May to lead Detroit’s school district after less than five years here.
“I would like to see someone who is charismatic, who can be involved with the community and who has relationships with all the community leaders,” added Anita Vining, a real estate agent.
Later this month, the Board is expected to put out a call for proposals from search firms to run an open, national superintendent search.
Vining said she doesn’t understand why the Board hasn’t already selected a search firm.
Wright said the board had to complete some professional development training, to help them better work together as a team and to appreciate everyone’s differing styles of leadership. Those skills will come in handy as the board selects a superintendent, which is one of its most important jobs.
Also, since Vitti left, the Board has had to select an interim Superintendent, Patricia Willis, start a new school year, and handle a hurricane.
“This is not slow for us,” Wright said, vowing that once a search firm is hired the process will speed up.
“It’s going to move at light speed,” Wright said.
The district is holding three more community forums this month. The meetings begin at 6 p.m. and end at 7:30 p.m.: Wednesday, at Ed White Military Academy of Leadership, 1700 Old Middleburg Road North; Nov. 13 at Atlantic Coast High School, 9735 R.G. Skinner Parkway, and Nov. 16 at William Raines High School, 3663 Raines Avenue.
Denise Smith Amos: 904-359-4083