Janee White Sapp wanted to make sure her parental perspective is heard on Prudential Drive.
Sapp was among two dozen people who attended a community forum Wednesday evening to help the Duval County School Board select its next superintendent. Sapp and her sons sat inside the media center at Raines High School as the Florida School Boards Association solicited feedback on behalf of the district.
Wednesday’s meeting was the fourth and largest the district has held in recent weeks. The School Board plans to hire a superintendent in November.
After Diana Greene retired last spring, the 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.
Sapp would like Duval County’s next superintendent to have the willingness to stand up against political pressure from the local and state levels that may be detrimental to students. The “race-related policies” passed by the Florida Legislature this spring, Sapp said, are not in the best interests of Black students.
“In light of things that are happening in the community — racially motivated murders and policies that are race-related that our Legislature and governor are doing — I’m getting out in the community and letting myself be heard,” Sapp said.
The William M. Raines National Alumni Association provided a five-point position statement to Florida School Boards Association CEO Andrea Messina.
Lee Brown, a 1982 Raines graduate, said alumni outlined “experience managing construction and facility projects” as the top priority for the next superintendent. That person should also be adept at communicating with the community; possess experience leading a large, urban school district; and commit to the projects previously approved through the sales tax referendum that was approved in 2020, the group said.
“We’re worried that things may change, the political climate may change, and we may get pushed to the rear. And that’s been going on since 1965,” Brown said, referencing the year Raines opened.
Attendees made clear what they perceived as opportunities that Greene’s successor must address.
“More transparency and authenticity from the school board” was among the opportunities for improvement identified. Improving the transportation system; fixing the perceived lack of stability at the principal and superintendent levels; establishing partnerships with universities in order to restock the educator pipeline; and rectifying the inequity in resources and infrastructure also were listed.
Barbara Darby, former president of the Florida State College at Jacksonville North Campus, says members of the Duval County School Board have ignored the needs of Jacksonville’s Black community and its majority Black schools. While some have heeded the concerns, Darby said, they are outvoted by their peers on the board.
She hopes providing suggestions in the superintendent search will spur the board to consider the needs of all students.
“That’s all we want as a community, that our students have their share of every resource that is available so that they too can succeed.”
Messina reminded the two dozen students, parents, Raines alumni and community advocates that the qualities expressed Wednesday will be shared with the Duval County School Board. But, it’s the board that will prioritize what they seek in the next superintendent.
“I would love to have 67 super men and super women, but it doesn’t exist,” Messina told the audience.
Darby and others pushed back: They believed Diana Greene was Duval’s super woman.
The combined in-person and online audience of nearly 30 people was the largest of the four community forums to date. While there was trepidation that the School Board will ignore their concerns, Messina did her best to alleviate those fears.
“There is a rich history at this high school. This high school has turned out some of the best and brightest people since 1965,” Brown said. “And, a lot of those people have gone on, retired and come back and they have come back to this community. It’s important (the School Board) understands how we feel about this high school and how we feel a change in the superintendent.”