Some serious questions about Superintendent Vitti’s leadership.

This is a comment left by Educatedone on the Times Union’s discussion board beneath an article about recent principal moves. I think they brought up legitimate questions about both who the super promotes and fires.

Once again Superintendent Vitti continues to demonstrate that he
has two standards. While he continues to hammer school-based administrators
under the guise of academic accountability, he promoted Cluster Chiefs Ms.Jennifer
Brown and Ms.Iranetta Wright, both former principals whose school’s DOE
accountability performances were both failing (F grades back to back years).
Those individuals were not demoted but elevated and received increase financial
compensation. However, he continues his marketing campaign to be viewed as the
tough superintendent that is holding principals accountable but in reality he
is carefully sorting and selecting principals that he no longer want in the
principal seat while rewarding some principals whose track record does not
support their promotion or elevation to senior leadership status.
It is amazing that he and his staff had the assessment data for
these two schools and other failing and marginal performing schools since the
summer but he and his staff failed to pull the trigger on these two school
principals until September. Why wasn’t this decision made before school
started? What new data was provided based upon he alleged history of these
administrators? And, to add an insult to all of DCPS assistant principals; he
has the gall to select an AP from a high school in Miami. This person has no
middle school experience, however, any thing or person from Miami Dade County
Public Schools is acceptable regardless of their lack of experience or competency.
All you have to do is look at the persons’ credentials and experience that he
brought to DCPS from Miami and DOE. Privately and around the water cooler –
they are referred to as the classic cases of the “Peter Principle”.

I hope that the Duval County School Board applies the same criteria that
he is using in evaluating, demoting or dismissing school-based administrators.
If the Board will carefully review the performances of all schools under his
leadership in comparison with their performance under Mr.Pratt-Dannals
leadership, they will find that we have more than double the number of schools
that are rated as “D” or “F” under his watch. He will
quickly tell you that the assessment system has changed and it will change
again this year so don’t expect any significant improvement. However, the same
assessment standards/criteria was being applied to all school districts in FL;
so why is St. Johns, Clay, Orange, Hillsborough, Broward, Pinellas; Volusia and
other school districts academic performances improving while Duval’s Ds and Fs
accountability grades/schools are increasing?

You expect spin from Sonita Young and the district about Teach for America but today on First Coast Connect all you got was misinformation.

I have to be careful when writing about Mrs.
Young, wife of exiled Ribault Principal James Young; because last time I did
she had my principal write me up. I know because that is how he started the

Well today Mrs. Young director of human
resources for the district and Crystal Roundtree the area TFA director were on
First Coast Connect talking about a recent report from Columbia
University about TFA, and yes that is kind of like discussing hen house
security and why it is overrated with wolves. Despite the fact the report said
TFA greatly exacerbated the teacher retention problem and that their members perform
no better than similar teachers they made it sound like TFA was the best thing
since sliced bread.

Right away Crystal Roundtree started with the
spinning saying how awesome it was that first year TFA teachers returned at an
84 percent rate when compared to a 77% rate for other first year teachers. She
didn’t mention that TFA members get 5,300 dollars a year in loan forgiveness,
which I am sure helps make up a lot of their minds. Unfortunately regular
teachers don’t get anything. She then completely glosses over how the numbers
slip to 33 and 63 percent respectively. Roundtree later also wouldn’t tell Ross
the host the amount TFA members get just saying they qualified for some
AmeriCorp benefits.

It was also around now that Young said something
that made my jaw drop. She said more TFA teachers were coming back for a third
year so they can move into leadership positions, just what we need, 24 year old
vice principals right. My jaw might have dropped again if it wasn’t already
open when she said that even though many left teaching, many stayed in the city
and that brought ancillary gains. I kid you not, them leaving teaching but
staying in the area “is something we shouldn’t overlook.” Yeah she
said that as a justification for why we should continue with TFA.

Then despite the fact Roundtree said that TFA
teachers were doing better it can’t erase what the report actually said, “Results
varied slightly across models that controlled for additional teacher and school
characteristics, but all results suggest that TFA teachers are at least as
effective as their non-TFA colleagues. No adjusted models indicated that TFA
students learned less than other students.”

Furthermore Young can say they help our lower
economic schools have certificated staff but that doesn’t change the fact that
practically none of them have professional certificates. Instead they have
temporary certificates which if you have 56 bucks and a college degree you can
have one too. In fact since they create an ever revolving door they are
actually stymieing those schools from having a staff made up of professional
certificate holders.

They both then followed up with how only TFA
cares about our poorest students. Young said all our kids deserve high quality
teachers that have the training and skill to work with them, five weeks in
ideal conditions makes up TFA’s pre first day training by the way. Crystal
echoed the sentiment saying they firmly believe all kids can achieve. 
It’s a good thing these ladies brought TFA to town because most teachers I know
think kids deserve whatever they can get since most of them can’t learn
anyways. (sic) They say those things to give themselves some undeserved moral
high ground because if they really cared they wouldn’t send hobbyists or
extended camp counselors to work with our neediest kids and instead would leave
no stone unturned in trying to find professional teachers to staff those

All in all I thought Melissa Ross did a solid
job in the interview though I wish she had mentioned how the district is
spending five million dollars over three years on the program which I believe
is nothing but an indulgence to Gary Chartrand the anti-public school teacher
activist who brought them to town. Regardless if you agree with that or not,
how many professional teachers who would stay for more than two years could we have
found with that money? My bet is more than enough. Furthermore I don’t think it
should be lost on anybody that the segment was sponsored by the Chartrand
foundation. Like I said overall I thought Ross did a good job but their
affiliation with Chartrand makes me wonder about the questions not asked. 

Finally I would like to
say I doubt these two think anybody could go through a five week access course
and do their high price jobs successfully and I will tell you neither is as
hard as working at an inner city school, but at the same time they expect
parents and the community to buy it.
Don’t buy it for a

To listen to the interview, click the link:

To see the study, paste bellow into your browser.


Once again Vitti shills for charter schools over public schools.

The superintendent wrote a letter to the state saying the district would be applying for grants to bring more charter schools to town and he used the KIPP school as justification, he said that KIPP was far exceeding the results of the neighboring local schools. This is both true and deviously and recklessly false.

Yes KIPP’s scores are better than the neighboring public schools, though if we look at them historically it is just by a nose, but KIPP has also lost a third of it’s beginning class, 88 to 64, which probably wouldn’t raise an eyebrow except for KIPPs reputation of counseling out low performers.  Then they also spend about a third more than public schools do and can put requirements on their parents too.

I submit that is any of the neighboring schools had a third more resources and could council out their bottom third they would be leaving KIPP in the dust and how Vitti cannot acknowledge that and instead heaps accolades on them does a disservice to the school system he is supposed to represent. At best it is extremely disingenuous to do so.

For shame superintendent Vitti, it’s time to stop standing up for charter schools and to start standing against them.

Duval should stop wasting money on Teach for America and create their own teacher recruitment program.

By Bradford Hall

Teach for America Founder and Chairman Wendy Kopp recently penned a letter to the editor of the Washington Post touting her organization’s effectiveness and slamming critics of her organization.

In her letter, she writes, “But some of the criticism is based on misrepresentation and toxic rhetoric.”

If I were thinking about Duval County Public Schools and its “partnership” with Kopp’s organization, I am inclined to agree with Kopp.

TFA has misrepresented the teaching profession by using its own toxic rhetoric that anyone can become a teacher and that it only requires two years to significantly improve student achievement.

According to the Center for Public Education, students are more likely to achieve better results with a teacher who has at least five years of teaching experience.

Just months ago, Dr. Douglas D. Ready, an associate professor of Education and Public Policy in Teachers College at Columbia University, compiled a report of his findings about TFA Jacksonville that clearly shows it misses the mark for its overwhelming teacher turnover rates and evidence that students taught by TFA corps members learn no better than those taught by non-TFA teachers. Here are some of the highlights of the study:

 Of the original 55 TFA Jacksonville corps members, none of them remain teaching in
Duval County Public Schools today.

 Only 11 of the 61 TFA teachers hired in 2010 were still teaching in the district last school

 TFA membership was the strongest single predictor of early-career attrition from DCPS.

 Even compared to early-career teachers in the same school with similar backgrounds and
teaching responsibilities, TFA teachers were still more likely to leave DCPS.

 Results varied slightly across models that controlled for additional teacher and school
characteristics, but all results suggest that TFA teachers are at least as effective as their
non-TFA colleagues. No adjusted models indicated that TFA students learned less than
other students.

Ready’s report clearly shows that criticizing TFA is not misguided but continuing to fund a revolving door of teachers in and out of already hard-to-staff schools is blatantly misguided and an expensive mistake.

Our district, for the next three years, will give TFA nearly $2 million (and that is only 20 percent of the total costs) for teacher performance no better than teachers who take the traditional route to the classroom. Pursuing this further, TFA corps members do not even equate to five percent of the district’s teaching force.

An even better opportunity is the district owning its own human capital efforts.

NYC Teacher Fellows is a program designed to recruit teachers for hard-to-staff schools. Fellows will go through The Spring Classroom Apprenticeship where they will co-teach in a high needs area for ten weeks. Those fellows will then go on to teach summer school classes while being coached by master teachers. In addition to school-based support throughout the regular school year, professors and staff from local universities are also on hand to observe the teacher fellows and provide direct support. The fellows can also choose from several universities where they want to earn a master’s degree in education.

According to the NYC Teacher Fellows, 47 percent of fellows are recent college graduates while 53 percent are career changers. An impressive 92 percent complete their first year; 72 percent are still teaching in their third year; and over half remain for five years or more. The program also boasts that 398 of the fellows now serve as principals or administrators.

In short, Duval County should have the capacity to build its own top notch recruitment model too.

Where it concerns our children who are our neighbors, we, as a local community, should come together and find a solution to lower attrition rates in all of our schools. The Jacksonville Teacher Residency Program is definitely on time as we champion the exit of TFA in Duval County.

More students, not enough books or supplies and admins micromanaging teachers, Duval’s recipe for failure.

From a Reader:

Yeah. We don’t even have enough literature books for class sets, let alone to take home. One of our grade levels has about 12-15 books per teacher. Vitti is all into buying online stuff; however, again, our average teacher has 3 computers in each classroom with an average of over 25 students. 

I live in fear, but not about retribution or getting fired. I fear that I cannot teach my best because people in charge cannot give my department the resources and support necessary to do our jobs. By the way, we are in week 7 starting Monday, week 8 for teachers, and our school has still not given us supply money. I have easily spent more than 200 dollars already on supplies for my own classroom, so I would have paper, pens, highlighters, ink (seriously), chart paper, etc.

Name another profession that you have to buy your own supplies before you start. 

On top of that, we have loads more students than ever before, and we still have not been given enough teachers or admin or security to handle all of them. This is by far the worst year for managing students that I have ever seen, and I cannot blame admin too much as there are so many students and not enough manpower. We do, however, have enough to pay higher ups to come into our classrooms and tell us how to do our jobs every couple of weeks…money is clearly not being spent in the right places.

Florida’s poor education leadership has failed us.

When talking about problems in education we often hear about over
testing and a lack of resources but another big problem Florida has is lack of
quality leadership.  Under Scott there have been 4 different education
commissioners six if you count Pam Stewart’s two intern stints. Robinson his
first appointee resigned after backlash about constant changes to the grading
system. Bennett his second resigned to defend himself against ethics
violations in Indiana where he recently agreed to pay a 5,000 dollar fine. Then
Stewart the current one has somehow managed to keep her job despite saying
Common Core wouldn’t cost any extra money, its costing hundreds of
millions more, the Value Added teacher evaluation mess which saw some
teachers evaluated on students they never taught and spending five million
dollars to field test Florida’s next tests to Utah, perhaps the least
similar to Florida state in he union.

Then lets consider Scott’s appointees to the state board of education which
came up with both race based goals and who rubber stamp, often over districts
objections, everything to do with charter schools. There is Gary Chartrand the
chair a grocer who brought several charter schools to Jacksonville, Marva
Johnson a cable TV executive, Andy Tuck an evolution denier and orange grower
and Rebecca Fishman Lipsey who spent two years in the classroom, in New York
and was a Teach for America executive before becoming a consultant. Not one
true educator in the bunch. Can you imagine running a police department or
hospital without police or doctors? Well with these people in charge of
education that is about the equivalent.

And then there is Rick Scott himself. He has endorsed common core despite
the fact it does absolutely nothing to address poverty and then thinks
just because we are calling it Florida Standards nobody will
notice. He has dramatically increased the rate of privatization
through charter schools and vouchers which have no evidence saying they perform
better than public schools and among other things he stripped teachers of work
protections and instituted a merit pay system (SB 736) which might sound
great to some but has never worked in practice and then failed to fund it.

Public education in Florida gets a bad rap but the truth is it is our
leadership that has failed us.

What is worse, teachers working in fear or kids going without books? Welcome to Duval County.

Below is a letter I received from a reader and at their request I redacted anything that might give their identity away. I think it is especially powerful because the teacher is working at a school they like for a principal they like too, something a lot of teachers can’t say but despite that their fear is still apparent.

Finally, things don’t have to be like this. I believe if we want to see improvement a great start would be treating teachers with the respect they deserve and giving them the supplies they need. We’re really in trouble when books are considered a luxury. –C


I’m the one who posted about the textbook problem at the high school level. Please don’t mention my name or any other relevant info that may lead to my identity. I prefer to play it safe.

I teach XXXXXXX at XXXXXXX. I love what I do. Teaching is my calling. I can’t imagine not teaching high school students the beauty of literature and writing – the subtleties and nuances in literature, the writer’s purpose, historical context, and all of the processes that go into analyzing amazing literature. I have an excellent rapport with my seniors – they love my class, they want to sign up for my class, even if they aren’t of the AP caliber. I have an excellent reputation among my colleagues, administrators, and students.

My principal is a great guy. I really like him. He’s very approachable and supportive. However, he plays by the rules; therefore he will not distribute any books to students, although they are in the building. Yes, that’s correct – the books are in the building, but they will not be given to students because of the directive from downtown. My principal will not deviate from any policy coming from downtown. He doesn’t want to risk jeopardizing his own position at XXXXXXX. I completely understand this.

It’s my understanding that some of the other high schools distributed books. I’ve heard Stanton’s principal did; however, she has a leg to stand on – who wants to piss off the parents at Stanton? Not even Vitti would do that. She also held on to her Media Specialist, and students have access to the media center that is actually used as a media center, and not a testing center.

I don’t even have to tell you how overworked we all are. Everyone. Every school. Ridiculous directives, documentation in lesson planning, common planning, PLC’s with coaches who are trying to justify their own positions. Focusing on the day-to-day instruction in classrooms is becoming more and more challenging each year. Now, without books….well, I feel like this is the final straw. I’m fed up. I’ve never commented on your blog before (although I am a regular reader) until just recently with the book problem.

When I asked why this directive is being forced upon schools (even schools like us, who have enough books), I was told that if there are not enough books for every student in the county enrolled in that course, then NO ONE gets a book. They are forcing everyone down to the lowest level, so we can all be in misery.

I also teach XXXXXXX. My students have access to this textbook online, so there are no problems with this course. It’s primarily affecting AP instructors.

And, just so you know, the county is allowing certain math courses to have books at home. I believe it’s Algebra I and II, and geometry. That’s it. I have several colleagues who are just as frustrated as I, and I could share some of their stories, but I won’t. It’s not my place to speak for other people. Suffice it to say, we are all at our wit’s end.

I would love to see the Times Union reporter contacting principals and inquiring whether their students received books to use at home. For every subject. What will they say? How will they respond? Let them send a photographer to photograph the books at schools that are not being distributed, and are just sitting in a room collecting dust.

I will trust that you will keep this information as generic as possible should you choose to post about it. Thanks for trying and making people aware of the ‘real world’ in dcps.


These are frightening times for Duval’s young readers.

If the district can’t get buy in from our teachers, how successful can we be?

From a reader:

I guess that part of their solution to this quagmire was to drop SRA from the curriculum. They are still going full-steam ahead with novel study despite the lack of books for our oversized classes. (26 rather than 22) Not to mention, apparently downtown doesn’t click the links to the email Vitti sends. If they did, they would have discovered that the writing test requires the ability to read, analyze, and compose a multi paragraph response, using text support from all of the excerpts presented, which were ALL nonfiction.  The reading test link- also nonfiction. 

Whomever developed the curriculum for ELA/Reading didn’t do their homework and presume our students already know how to formulate text based responses. If they had any real knowledge, we would have an entirely different focus. The newly purchased computer based programs clearly were intended to be substitute for teaching nonfiction analysis and writing. They don’t cut it. Write to Learn uses the old five paragraph prompt response. Its other alternative is to have students write a summary to one text on its program. It must have been purchased without first checking out the writing testing format. 

Achieve 3000, as we are required to use it, is useless because it assumes it will be accompanied by teacher instruction and followup. Yet, we are going to be blamed when our kids crash and burn on these tests. I can hear it now: The teachers didn’t teach the curriculum properly, the school-based admin. didn’t push those teachers hard enough, and we have them every tool and resource to do well. Where is the School Board? Are they just Vitti’s echo chamber? Or is this an effort to push us out? We will obtain other jobs, but our kids will lose a year of essential instruction. What does it say about our leaders when their egos and agendas take precedence over our students? 

Frightening times.

What responsibility does SOTRU’s Al Letson have in the school privatization battle?

First let me say I have listened to dozens of pieces on Al Letson’s radio program The State of the Re:Union and been captivated by every one. It is an amazing show bringing light to important stories that might have otherwise remained hidden.

That being said I want to know the motivation behind him emceeing WJCT’s American Graduate Champion Awards dinner where they celebrated foe of public school teachers and advocate of privatization Gary Chartrand. 

Does he share Chartrand’s disdain for public school teachers? Is he for the privatization of our schools or was this just another gig and free dinner for him, which I think in a way would be even worse.

I fully admit there are a lot of people who think Chartrnd is doing good work, he is definitely not afraid to throw his money around and he is also able to get the people in the circles he travels in to do the same. At the same time however you must admit that if he was an averge citizen without the money to back up his ideas, like most teachers he wouldn’t be able to get the time of day from anybody with any real influence. You must also admit that to public schools and teachers many of his ideas have been destructive. Does Letson care about the entire package or like most did he just look at the dollar signs and go with the flow.  I would like to know. 

I am still going to listen to the SOTRU but sadly now I do so knowing either Letson is on the wrong side of the debate or he just doesn’t care enough to make a stand.

To read more click the link:

Dear Duval County, where are the books?

I am a proud graduate of Duval County Public schools and I remember like clockwork at the beginning of each school year I was assigned all my books at once. My how things have changed.

I posed a question on Facebook, Duval teachers, do you and your kids have enough books?

These were the very disappointing answers. 


 I helped one teacher stock her classroom with needed books… She has spent lots of her own money to get her classroom ready. I just pitched in as her adopted room mother. I adopted 2 teachers this year, but one is in Alachua county. I helped her with consumable supplies.

I already weighed in on this one. But you should also know that the online curriculums are also not ready. We’ve been waiting six weeks for the student uploads to take place for middle school math, digits (Pearson, if you have a rotten tomato in your hand), which means teachers cannot assign homework without spending time at the copy machine, do diagnostic assessments for differentiation, or do the online tests. The curriculum was sold that all this online technology would save teachers hours of grading and data production. Achieve 3000 for ELA has also been slow for activation. That might have now come through since Vitti ordered all the middle schools to have the testing part of Achieve 3000 done by Friday. It never ends, but is this tragedy or farce?

My son is in 6th grade and still doesn’t have a science book.

No, we only have 27 Economics books for the whole school and they are 11 years old. I got a classroom set of the JA book from my friends there.

well the novels that we were to use in class, no they didn’t give us enough. Some teachers went out and bought class sets of their own….not happening here, i dont have that kind of money

oh and the whole SRA thing got scrapped???? who paid for all those books and materials that won’t be in use now????

Nope. They have in-class books for pre-calc. They take photos with their phones–if they have a phone, and if they have storage–or get it offline.

Not a full set of novels for ELA 5th grade. Some (actually quite a few) walked off last year. I have purchased a few but don’t want to spend all my $ on replacements. And I will never let students take them home anymore so they can catch up when out of the classroom when we are reading (which is happening way too frequently to be this early in the school year.)

Nope. Not even for ap macroeconomics which really really needs a book. It’s hard enough with a book.

My heart aches and I feel your pain since I walked in your shoes until 6/11/14. I have since relocated to Colorado Springs. I Have met teachers and parents and love to question them about their experience with the school system. I have heard not one comment similar to what we experienced in Duval County. And, Colorado Springs is a community of about 750,000 people and there are 6 districts within this community. This is a different world. Duval County has had problems for too long and they have continued under each new Superintendent. Enough is enough.

NO! Am buying more with my own $$. Ridiculous

As a person who grew up in the now legendary NYC public school system that gave us all our text books on the first day of classes, I have to say, really Duval County School Board?!? Bet we can find a few administrator salaries we could cut to pay for more books and not have the system suffer one iota.

Just so you know it is not all bad, one teacher, out of a dozen wrote, Yes. AND we got “permission” to use the consumables as consumables!!! How cool is that?!??

Where’s the money for the books? Or since we are planning to willfully violate the class size amendment are we saving it to pay the fine?

Oy vey, if there is a plan for success here I am sadly not seeing it.