Few people participated Tuesday in the first public forum in connection with Duval County’s search for a new schools superintendent. But they were passionate in their comments.
The Florida School Boards Association held the first of six forums at 11 a.m. at Baldwin Middle Senior High School on Jacksonville’s Westside. Reporters and district staffers far outnumbered the four community members who attended the forum in person.
But, the community members said they appreciated the hourlong forum, and about 20 people joined in online. Together they answered three open-ended questions about the strengths and challenges of the Duval County district, as well as what qualities the School Board should look for.
The facilitators also encouraged community members and district staffers to write down names and contact information for people they think would be good candidates for the job.
“I feel like it was worth it,” said Nikki Myzell, parent of a Baldwin student. “You can’t sit at home and complain about things if you’re not out there trying to do something about it.”
Myzell said her top priorities include selecting a superintendent who knows Jacksonville and has either attended or worked in Duval Schools. She came to the forum with her husband, who went to the Baldwin school when he was a student, as did his parents.
Retired teacher and local blogger Gregory Sampson and Duval grandparent Vera Standifer were the two others attending in person.
“I’m concerned about children and education, and I’m concerned about getting the right person,” Standifer said. “I liked our previous superintendent, and I thought she did well for us, but I just wanted to make sure that we stay on the right road.”
After Diana Greene retired last spring, the Duval County School Board appointed her vice superintendent, Dana Kriznar, to the position in the interim. The board hired the Florida School Boards Association for $35,000 to facilitate its long-term superintendent search. The organization told School Board members not to attend the community forums to avoid the appearance of swaying the outcome — the final hiring decision is up to the School Board.
Charlotte Joyce, whose district includes Baldwin Middle Senior High School, briefly welcomed the visitors before leaving the room.
Bill Vogel from the school board association facilitated the discussion, writing down the feedback of people attending virtually and in person. The organization is working on multiple superintendent searches concurrently, and Vogel once accidentally called the district Flagler.
But, he says, what stuck out to him about this first Duval forum was the list of strengths.
“There are a lot of things that are going on here in Duval County that people are very proud of,” Vogel told Jacksonville Today. “I think that list that people said they didn’t want changed is very impressive.”
Attendees listed things like concern for underprivileged students, community involvement and the parent academy among the district’s strengths.
Critical challenges included career and technical education, specialized classes in traditional public schools as there are in magnet schools, improved transportation and retention of good teachers.
Another forum was scheduled Tuesday evening, one Thursday evening and three next week. An online survey also is open until Sept. 6.
Here is the schedule:
- Aug. 22: 6 p.m., Westside High School (in person only).
- Aug. 24: 6 p.m., Atlantic Coast High School (online and in person).
- Aug. 29: 6 p.m., Raines High School, media center (online and in person).
- Aug. 31: 11 a.m., Fletcher High School (online and in-person); 6 p.m., Sandalwood High School (in person only).
All of the information also is available on the district’s superintendent search website.
The School Board plans to include community feedback in the job posting, to be posted in mid-September. Finalists will submit written and video responses to interview questions that will be posted on the district’s website later this fall, ahead of in-person interviews and selection by late November, according to the district’s timeline.