Teachers explain the damage that Vitti and Brennan committed

Vitti had to know Brennan was wrecking First Coast, the exodus of teachers is proof but instead of standing up for the districts teachers and replacing him, he said Brennan was one of the best. A couple of teachers explain how that was far from true.

I am one of the veteran teachers who, after 23 years at my beloved First Coast, left because I could no longer take it.

Many of my good friends left before or soon after me for similar reasons. The toll it took on me was so great, I retired much earlier than I had planned.

Your post validates what many of us went through. So unfair & completely unnecessary.

Tim Simmons, the new principal is a wonderful person. I loved working with him. I know he will be loved by students, parents & teachers. I only wish he had been chosen as principal when we lost Mr. Hall.


I personally feel after witnessing what has happened to so many friends who were teachers and staff at First Coast HS, there surely must be enough evidence for a class action law suit against the school board, Vitti, and Brennan. 

The fact that teachers left their chosen profession due to the onslaught of continued demeaning treatment and intimidation by Brennan on a daily basis is ludicrous to accept as normal attrition.

These teachers and staff suffered physically, mentally and professionally at his hands and Viti had full knowledge and allowed this to continue.

I say to all of the awesome, talented, intelligent teachers and staff – stand up and stand out!
Take this to the next level! Think of the complete cost you all have sustained in the wake of this horrible situation.

My prayers are sent out to all of you and my thanks to those wonderful teachers that were there for my children when they attended FCHS.

Finally I would like to point out that these teacchers went through a lot and they both finished their comments with nothing but hope for First Coast’s future. That’s spirit, spirit that Vitti allowed Brennan to chase away.

How about just a little teacher appreciation

By Greg Sampson
May 2 – 6 (2016) is Teacher Appreciation Week. One grumpy, old teacher has some ideas as to how he could be shown appreciation.
1    1.      STOP turning the lights out every 10 minutes. My classroom is equipped with a motion detector, which means after 10 minutes of no movement, the lights go out. This not a problem when I have classes, as normal student fidgetiness and teacher circulation to groups keeps the lights on. But when I am on my planning period, sitting at my desk, answering parent email or returning their phone calls, writing new lesson plans, reviewing and grading student work, or doing other paperwork my employer demands, the lights go out. I have to get up and walk through the room, even though I am doing the work required of me. That is particularly egregious in the predawn hours (yes, I get to school one hour or more before my contract time) and there is no light to see by. Why do I have to stumble into furniture and wrack my knees to get the lights back on?
2    2.  Let me decide whether I want ONE-sided or TWO-sided printing when I need to print out lesson plans, student rosters, Department of Ed downloads, and other necessary documents. To force a default to two-sided printing … and when I try to make it one-sided, you separate the first page as one-sided and do the rest of the printing as a separate two-sided request. Micromanaging teachers to this level is ridiculous, my dear employer. But the joke’s on you. I now print out two copies of everything. Not only have you not saved  paper, you have extra expenses for toner, electricity, and machine maintenance.
3    3. Give me the supplies I need so I can carry out your requests. Every professional development session I go to, we work in groups and chart our responses. But when I want to do this in my classroom, my supply request for chart paper is denied. Really? But getting teenagers to work in groups, chart their work, and report to the class is deemed “best practices.” But you won’t buy me $30 worth of chart paper for the year even though your budget totals $1.7 BILLION. Not feeling the love.
4    4. Pay my money on time. If you bargain with my union and agree to pay salary supplements, it is not a discretionary expense you can do any old time you feel like it. Why should I wait until late February to receive the money you promised for teaching a hard-to-staff course? Pay me throughout the year, every paycheck, like a reasonable person would. Then you wouldn’t hold to your announced paydate because you said not every principal turned in a list of who was eligble. Really? But as a fellow teacher said, you know what we teach when it comes to sending out the threats of termination for being out-of-field, but you don’t know what we teach when it comes to honoring our contract supplements.
5    5. Stop pushing your great online platforms. I tried to use your testing platform, ran into problems, and was told pointblank by your staff that the Unify platform was NOT for teachers to use. Only test coordinators and administrators should be using it. I tried to give my students the test you pushed, but couldn’t make the online calculator available to them. As a mere teacher, a peon, I am not allowed those privileges. The word you need to find is EMPOWERMENT.
6    6. Treat me like the professional I am. Communicate with me once or twice a month. LEAD, dammit. When I ask a question of district staff, I should receive a direct reply, not a response that came through channels that I cannot talk to them. Your rigid hierarchy is condemning the district to grinding mediocrity. (Not to mention the arrogant egos too many people inflate through such nonsense.) I have good ideas about curriculum. Act like you want to hear from me.  After all, I am the pro in the classroom and can tell you how well a curriculum design is going. Get your noses out of data. It is one source, but not the only source of knowledge about student learning.
7    7. When I tell you the textbook is terrible, you need to believe me. Until you stand shoulder-to-shoulder with me in the classroom, you don’t have the experience I do. You want to raise test scores? LISTEN when I tell you the book is ineffective and the online resources do not help.
I have no illusions I will receive this kind of appreciation. Maybe I’ll get a free lunch one day or a monogrammed pen in my mailbox. That’s all teacher appreciation means these days. But even a grumpy, old teacher still hopes . . .

Clay Superintendent Van Zant thinks the people of Clay County are dumb.

Oy vey from the you can’t make this up file and the Times Union:

Van Zant, who is running for re-election to his second four-year term, said in an email to the newspaper that he hadn’t spoken to Gottshalk about his candidacy.
“I’ve never spoken with Mr. Gottshalk or any of the other candidates about why they are running, therefore, I can’t speak to their motivations to run. As Americans, we enjoy the freedom to self-govern. And each of us has as much right as the next candidate in the race to participate in the process,” Van Zant wrote.
The Republican primary for school superintendent already was closed before Gottshalk filed as a candidate. It was closed because Democrat and non-partisan candidates also are running in the general election for that office, county Supervisor of Elections Chris Chambless said.
However, Chambless said Gottshalk’s candidacy would close the GOP primary for superintendent if the Democrat and non-partisan candidates withdraw or fail to qualify and nobody replaces them on the ballot. The deadline for candidates to qualify is noon June 24, according to state election regulations.
In 2012, Gottshalk entered the superintendent almost at the last minute as a write-in candidate – closing the Republican primary to at least 58,000 Democrat and independent voters.
Gottshalk introduced himself as a “sham candidate” at a School Board meeting and elsewhere. He also contributed $50 to Van Zant’s campaign as well as displayed his campaign signs. In addition, Gottshalk was among the first to congratulate Van Zant – describing him as a friend as well as an election opponent – when Van Zant subsequently was sworn in as superintendent.
Um, what the beep?!? Even if you like ths guy don’t you have to feel insulted that he is A. trying the same trick again, B. doing it with the same guy again C. He thinks people are dumb enough to not think he is involved and D thinks its okay to disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters.
Van Zant went on to say:
“There are liberal groups out there that are motivated to remove me from office,” Van Zant wrote in the email. “I’m certain that there are those who will continue to misrepresent my conservative values and refuse to recognize the great things happening in our schools.”
 By liberal does he mean people who care about the schools in clay county and think all eligible voters should receive a say? By recognize great things does he mean hiring cronies, a demoralized teaching force, and a debt crisis? By conservative values does he mean that dirty tricks are acceptable? What does he mean?
Van Zant’s been a disaster and he all but just said he thinks you’re dumb, please show him you’re not and vote this guy out.

Let’s talk about discipline in Duval. (rough draft)

I believe it is entirely possible that for years Duval
suspended too many kids when alternative punishments were available and I also
believe it is possible that too many kids have been arrested when civil citations or
alternative punishments could have been enforced as well.

That being said what I know for a fact is that way too many
children haven’t received anything approaching a consequence for thier poor behavior; now to be fair this
was a problem the district had before Superintendent Vitti arrived, he just exasperated

If I have heard it once I have heard it a hundred
times and that’s teachers have just given up writing referrals because either
nothing happens or the situation gets worse as the child returns feeling both
angry and entitled because that is what happens when they get away with poor
behavior. Likewise this has led to poor behavior in kids who otherwise wouldn’t
even think about acting up. When they see their peers get away with it then think
they can as well.

In today’s Times Union, they have printed the annual “discipline
is better than ever” piece and you know you want to believe it, you really do, I do. I think we all hope that the district is being forthright and honest, and things are
heading in the right direction unfortunately it’s hard to believe the district
and I think one key sentence is why.  

From the Times Union:

“It’s not by chance
(the improvement of discipline), that’s for sure,” Vitti said. “I remember
being a dean of discipline in New York City and a principal, always in tough
schools. Students are going to make mistakes, and when it comes to your office,
you have to make a decision: How are you going to handle it?”

Good gosh reading that sentence pumps me up, finally we
have a super in place who has been battle tested and he knows his stuff, with
him as a leader its full speed ahead and nothing can stop us right! Right!

Sigh except I can read a resume too and this is Vitti’s.

He was the dean for one year at the Fordham Leadership
Academy a very small high school in the Bronx. I can’t speak to its enrolment
in 03-05 when Vitti was there but right now it’s 371. Look I don’t want to
discount Vitti’s service and I bet there were challenging kids there as well,
but come on this was not the school that Principal Joe Clark cleaned up.

Now the middle school he worked at as Dean, Joseph
Wade middle school, was bigger, 586 kids and I bet tougher too (middle school
kids be crazy), but he was only there one year.

Then he wasn’t a principal till he arrived in Miami
after first spending one year as an intern to the super and another as the knowledge
Information officer in Miami Dade because you know those two positions prepare you to be a
principal. He served one year as principal at Homestead Middle. Now think about
this, he was a teacher for two, a dean for two more and then he skipped being an
assistant principal and after two tears at the district office went right to
running a school. Um what am I missing here?  Plus he only stayed there one year! Again I
don’t want to discount him being there but to me his one and done speaks

Oy vey, so yeah he’s right he was a dean in New York for
two years and a principal in Miami for one but when you look at the details of
his resume, I wonder how he even got those gigs.
I also don’t feel so gung ho that he actually knows
what he is talking about.

I feel like he oversold
his resume there and resumes are where everybody knows you are already
. You may disagree, but that’s typical of how
he does everything. Anything that can be spun as positive is the best thing since sliced bread and anything that is negative well, that’s the state’s fault (or our
librarians, math teachers, principals and assistant principals). He’s got no
control over those things.

Here are a few more statement from the Times Union
that are telling”

Though arrests for 2015-16 are down, the 2014-15 year marked the
most on-campus arrests in recent years. There were 343 arrests — 82 more than
the previous year.
Vitti said 2014-15 saw
a lot of community violence and crime spilling over into the schools, citing
numerous instances of weapons on campus.
But, he said, there
were also examples where school employees could have done a better job in
opting to use the code of conduct instead of arrest.
See like I said, last year it was the community and some
school employees that should have done a better job. Good things that happen
are the result of his leadership and experience, bad things, well ya can’t
depend on the community or some of the district’s employees to get it right.

So according to the district arrests and serious
infractions are down, but I have serious reservations whether it is because arrestable
and serious infractions are happening less frequency or we’re doing a better
job at just enduring them.

The truth is we all know that we are in trouble and
that things are not nearly as rosy as the super would have you believe. The truth
is we really need the truth not flowery statements and massaged statistics if
we are truly interested in improving.

Finally if you think i am wrong and you feel like discipline really is improving, please let me know. I would love to be wrong about this one.

Is Van Zant trying to steal another election?

It’s common knowledge that Van Zant using one of his church minions stole the Clay County school superintendent election four years ago. His sycophant filed to run as a right in candidate and since Van Zant and Ben Wortham were both running as republicans and only one would advance past the primary if there were any other candidates, this move disenfranchised all of Clay’s independent and democrat votes.

This alone should disqualified Van Zant from seeking election not that his ideas and policies haven’t been horrendous as well.

Despite there being no need he recommended the creation of Clay’s first Charter School, the Clay Charter Academy, which is just a blatant cash grab by Charter Schools USA, and then Van Zant is perhaps best known for hiring his cronies and injecting religion into Clay’s day to day. Finally lets not forget how he has been constantly dismissive and disrespectful to the the city’s teachers too.

Now word has come down that he is going to try his election stealing tricks again.

from Renna Lee

 Fred Gottshalk – Charlie Van Zants minion has filed to run for Superintendent of School in Clay County. If you do not know who he is, please go and view the tape from last night’s School Board Meeting. He is the older gentleman who has the Big Bible in his hand as he spoke to the School Board. He is the same gentleman that was put up to close the Election last time that got Charlie elected by 1400 votes. You are probably asking why is he doing it again. Obviously, they do not think that Keith Nichols or Rebekah Shivey can get enough petitions signed to qualify as Candidates. If they do not qualify and there is no “Write-in” Candidate, the Election would be an “Open” August Primary and Democrats and Independents could vote! Mr. Van Zant would have nothing to do with that in 2012 and he certainly did not want to take that chance this year. So, as soon as Fred enters the Race almost 70,000 people (Democrats and Independents) are disenfranchised again. (They cannot vote).  

Remember Charlie Van Zant has the church and the bully pulpit. He is a force to be reckoned with. We were forced here, I never intended to be here. We need every Teacher, Support Professional, Parent, Friends and Neighbors to get behind us. Please spread the word! Use Facebook, write letters to the Editor and tell your stories. This rule that allows a Sham Candidate to Close a Primary is not illegal but is it ethical??? You be the judge. 

Friends in Clay County you have to do better than Van Zant, you have to. Don’t let him steal another election and continue to drive the county into a ditch.

Alvin Brennan is proof positive the district doesn’t care about its teachers.

As news of Alvin Brennan leaving First Coast high school circulates around the district, I
can’t help but think about all the teacher whose lives he negatively impacted and
wonder who cares for them.
I first heard the name Alvin Brennan in 2010 when he became principal
of what was then Forrest high school. He would come into staff meetings belligerent
and threatening. He would pick on and harass teachers threatening their jobs, especially
ones, mostly women, that he considered weak. There was no sense of comrade and one
friend who survived to year two of his reign of terror there said it was a
teacher bloodbath.  
When Superintendent Vitti brought him back to the district
two and a half years ago to First Coast high school, a successful school with a
veteran staff for Brennan had changed little. I remember meeting one teacher at
European Street where she told me about how intimidating he was and how the
stress was leading to health problems.
In Brennan’s two and a half years there nearly a hundred teachers
left, many veterans and some left the profession entirely. They had their lives
turned upside down by a man who had known business being a principal in the
first place.
I can’t help but think about how many hundreds of teachers and their
children who were negatively affected by this tyrant in a tie over the years.
Who cares about them and what they had to go through?
A principal like a good coach is supposed to make their staff,
their team better, and this isn’t to say they can’t kick the occasional ass,
but their number one job is that of a cheerleader. Alvin Brennan was the opposite
of this, he ran his schools with an iron glove, and fear and intimidation where
the two tools in his tool box, and for the last two and a half years the
district has been okay with that as he ran First Coast into the ground.
Now is every principal as bad as Brennan?  Absolutely not but how many train wrecks, or car accidents, or tyrants is an acceptable number? How many teachers run out of the profession or made miserable is acceptable too?
If anybody has any doubt if the district cares about its
teachers or not then all they have to do is look to First Coast and see that
they don’t.  

So good riddance Alvin Brennan you won’t be missed by many
but shame on you Duval County Public schools for putting him in a positin where
he could needlessly disrupt so many lives.

Alvin Brennan leaves First Coast

It’s unfortunate to me that he isn’t being escorted out by
security but him leaving by any means is good news for First Coast and the
As euphoric as people are I don’t think people should forget
it was Superintendent Vitti who placed him there and despite overwhelming evidence
and a community in revolt, said Brennan was one of the district’s best
principals and wouldn’t be going anywhere.  
Brennan either had pictures of somebody or knows where the
bodies are buried because there is no way he should have been hired let alone
If you need a reminder about how bad he was, here are some
posts to refresh your memory.
I could go on and on.

We should all be glad that he is leaving but we should not
forget the poor judgment of the superintendent’s part that both put him there
and kept him there. The teachers, students and parents of First Coast deserved
a lot better, hopefully now they will get it. 

It’s not just the schools on the North-side that are underutilized.

By Bradford Hall

We hear all the time
about how the schools on the North side of town are underutilized and because
of that radical changes have to be made.

However, if you look
at the Master Planning File you will see that many of our schools are underutilized
all throughout the city and many others are heading that way. Saying that we
must do something in “neglected” neighborhoods are not inclusive of
the entire problem we face in Duval County.

About 80% of the
district’s schools within three years will fall to less than 85% utilization.
In fact, Atlantic Coast is set to hit 70% utilization by the 2018-19 school
year. Ribault High School currently holds a 74% utilization, which has
drastically improved from 52% over the past seven years. The enrollment at
Ribault has continued to rise for seven consecutive years. Sure there are
schools that struggle worse than others but the district constitutes safe
enrollment as anywhere between 85% and 105% utilization.

Every area in this
city within three years will face underutilization. Even with the district
knowing this, they have concentrated all changes in one community. The federal
government should be here stopping this travesty. Taking away black schools
will not stop the mass exodus of students.

I have sat in rotary
meetings where elite businessmen, judges and lawyers have told the
Superintendent that St. John’s County has become more attractive than Stanton
and Paxon. Let’s face the truth. The real reason Dr. Vitti is making changes is
because he has failed to continue effectively managing the learning
environment. If you don’t believe me call other large urban districts in
Florida and listen to them tell you how nothing impressive is happening here in
Duval County.

I think Vitti has
done some great things but student achievement is struggling. I’m more worried
about student achievement than anything else! We need to become better informed
about what is really happening in our schools.

Education Reform in Jacksonville is Millionaires telling poor black folks what they need. (rough draft)

The schools on the Northside of town were long
neglected, now do I think that continues? To be honest no, though at the same
time I do feel problems there are being addressed both begrudgingly and poorly.

Let’s start with the KIPP School that millionaire Gary
Chartrand paid nine million dollars to bring to town to save our struggling African
American youth. Here is the thing about the KIPP school, Gary Chartrand wouldn’t
send his children to it and nor would any affluent white neighborhood accept

It’s no excuses kill and drill philosophy would drive
parents and their children away but hey you poor black folk should line up and
beg to get your kids in.

Now the superintendent and school board well a
majority of the school board two of which are millionaires and all four are republicans
fully entrenched in the city’s power structure want to fix the neighborhood
schools on the Northside of town by converting several of them to magnets, a
repeat of the Paxon and Stanton structure which admittedly gave us two of the
finest schools in the country just at the expense of every other high school in
the city.

It gets even worse because Superintendent Vitti who hasn’t
really been in town that long and the four school board members, Grymes, Smith-Juarez,
Shine and Fischer are also ignoring the parents of those communities and their representatives,
you know because they know better. Coincidently these are also the four board
members that really don’t have any true education experience, and before you
bombard me with Smith-Juarez was a teacher, I don’t believe a few semesters at
the Bolles school counts.

From the Times Union:

Three board members
voiced reluctance about converting another neighborhood school into a magnet
school after already making similar decisions for other schools in recent
Board members Becki
Couch, Constance Hall and Paula Wright said the district should keep R. V.
Daniels and Susie Tolbert as they are and instead bolster the programs and
academics of the neighborhood schools.
“We can’t magnetize
our way into a quality education at every school,” Hall said
The debate really
boils down to two camps, the teachers on the board that represent those communities
want to save the schools and bolster their programs and staffs. The non-teachers
on the board, the millionaires and representatives of the republican elite in
the city, and don’t get mad at me my republican readers, Paula Dockery and John
King are and were champions of education, want to destroy those schools and want to
dictate to those communities what they should take.

These board members
fail to acknowledge that a lot of the problems caused on the 
North side of town
and in these schools is because of them and their ilk. Instead of dictating
to those communities, they should be listening to them. 

Does Superintendent Vitti routinely violate the code of ethics?

I attended a community learning summit this past weekend whose theme was changing organizations that are resistant to change, does that sound familiar to anyone?

At the summit there were numerous DCPS teachers and they all had a story to tell, and in all their stories kids and teachers were paying the price for the districts policies.

When I said, lets get this out there, lets let people know, they all had the same answer I would love to but I am afraid the district will come after me, a sentiment I have heard many times.

I also received this note today about a blog on guidance counselors that I put up yesterday.

Hi Chris, thank you for your blog post about school counselors! I tried to post a comment on it but I think I may have accidentally posted it with my name attached to it rather than anonymously. I don’t think it went through, but in the event that it did I am asking you to please not post a comment with my name attached to it. That could get me in some serious trouble. thank you!

This teacher was living in fear that there name would be attached to a comment.

In the Fall I went to several community meetings, at one a teacher wore a hoodie and a hat in order not to be recognized and at another a teacher presented them-self as a parent not a teacher in order to ask questions.

Teachers are afraid in the environment that Superintendent Vitti has created and I have to say I believe it may have reached the point of ethical violations.

(1a) The educator values the worth and dignity of every person, the pursuit of truth, devotion to excellence, acquisition of knowledge, and the nurture of democratic citizenship. Essential to the achievement of these standards are the freedom to learn and to teach and the guarantee of equal opportunity for all.

I have documented many of the degrading remarks the super has made about teachers and furthermore his squashing freedom of speech is contrary to supporting the nature of democratic citizenship. Many teachers don’t feel as if they have any freedom to truly teach as well and all they are is easily replaceable cogs forced to regurgitate the districts failed curriculum.

(1c) Aware of the importance of maintaining the respect and confidence of one’s colleagues, of students, of parents, and of other members of the community, the educator strives to achieve and sustain the highest degree of ethical conduct.

Raise your hand if you have confidence in the super’s policies and how he is running the district. If you respect his choices to denigrate and go after teachers and cause a culture of fear. Okay put your hand down if you’re a millionaire who owns or supports charter schools or you are an editor for the Times Union. If you envision the vast majority of teachers and a significant amount of the community still have their hands up then you are not the only one.


4. Shall not engage in harassment or discriminatory conduct which unreasonably interferes with an individual’s performance of professional or work responsibilities or with the orderly processes of education or which creates a hostile, intimidating, abusive, offensive, or oppressive environment; and, further, shall make reasonable effort to assure that each individual is protected from such harassment or discrimination.

Ask the hundreds of teachers who have left First Coast high school is they felt free from harassment. The districts main tenant seems to be intimidate teachers. I could go on and on.

Teachers should not be intimidated and harassed or forced to work in fear.

Something has to give and the super seems to be saying it won’t be me, well it won’t be me either.