Many members of the business community lament his leaving, they say it is a shame. They don’t think about all the careers he ruined when he thought of teachers as little more than widgets. When I hear people like Scott Shine and John Peyton talking about him leaving will be a loss for the city, I think it’s shameful. The teachers he forced to leave, many the profession all together or who he chased into early retirement, they represent the real loss to the city.
That being said there is a fair degree of, “the shame of it all”
The first thing Vitti did when he arrived was called for a relaxation of the learning schedule and I know to lots of teachers, who now feel they can’t fall even a minute behind, that might seem crazy, but there it was in an email in his first November, administrators shouldn’t threaten or cajole teachers who deviate from the learning schedule. Talk about a complete 180 Batman.
He also made bringing back the arts a priority, though I don’t think many of us realized how ham fisted it would be as lots of classes ballooned to untenable numbers and librarians at most schools paid the price for it.
While I am on the subject, why does this guy hate books so much? I know his dyslexia is widely documented, but did that cause him to get rid of most of our libraries and choose a bookless curriculum? I imagine books didn’t play a huge roll in his march towards education domination, but come on.
Though that might explain a lot of his disdain for teachers. He was one for two years and then a decade later he was running one of the biggest districts in the country. Things that didn’t meet up with his personal definition of success, books, libraries, being a teacher, had little importance to him. Want more evidence, his dyslexia, now we have an entire school dedicated to kids with dyslexia. That was personal and important to him, while the other things weren’t.
Vitti has been lauded for going on listening tours to find out what members of the community thought, though sadly what they really were, was a waste of people’s time tours, as almost from since day one he has ignored community members. It’s only those business leaders that Scott Shine referenced in a recent Times Union piece that he really listened to. Hobnobbing in board rooms was his aphrodisiac while he avoided teacher’s lounges like the plague.
On the surface, these were great ideas and gave people hope. Hope however can be the killer of worlds as Vitti revealed his true colors.
Personal loyalty to him rather than ability determined promotions and despite the fact he barely had a cup of coffee as a teacher he came to think he was the smartest person in the room. when surrounded by them. His hubris and if you have ever been to one of his graduation ceremonies, you know exactly what I am talking about, was on display.
Then desperate to show improvement he started to throw one idea after another against the wall to see if anyone would stick and when most of his ideas proved unworkable or unpopular he started a three shell Monty game with the district, moving kids around and creating schools that were protected from the state assessments.
The cherry on top was despite his tough talk against charter schools the reality is charters in Jacksonville have never had a better friend than him.
He did have a few wins, the parent academy is a great idea, though since this administration blows everything remotely positive way out of proportion, I do wonder how effective it really is and then there is grants.
This admin could write grants like I have never seen before and grant writing, not graduation rates which are up everywhere and the fact that some people see fit to give him credit for them up here is infuriating and sickening, grant writing is his one, as far as I can tell untainted success.
You might be thinking I have been harsh, to which I will reply, talk to a teacher about what they think. Ask them if the district improved and what the super has done to make it happen. I don’t want to imply we haven’t had successes, on the contrary we have had many, 8000, teachers and six thousand support staff showing up every day in challenging conditions have made quite the difference, but the vast majority of those successes have happened in despite of the super not because of him.
Then look at the conduct of the school board. I get it everyone there has egos but would they really wash their hands of somebody who had moved the district? You might be thinking, hey, Shine, and Grymes really, really like him, to which I reply, okay but would the board members who have bothered to do their job, really let him go if they thought he was effective?
There is a shame in Vitti leaving, he is obviously a smart and capable man. Smoke and mirrors won’t get you to the super job at the 20th largest district in the nation but somewhere along the way he started to believe the press clippings and that ultimately caused his downfall and make no mistake going to Detroit is a dramatic step back.
I wish him and Detroit luck, but if the same guy who leaves here shows up there, then they are going to need it.
If you re interested, the Times Union has a different take.