Controversy and a lawsuit didn’t stop Detroit’s main school district from moving into the next phase of its superintendent search this week: interviews with the first of two remaining finalists. Nikolai Vitti, who is currently superintendent of the Duval County Public Schools in Jacksonville, Florida, made an impassioned case in a daylong interview this week for why he’s the man for the job. If selected, he said, he’s “likely” to enroll his four children in Detroit public schools — though he made no promises.
“First I have to be offered the job, but I would plan to live in city limits and would likely send my children to public schools.”
— Nikolai Vitti, finalist for Detroit schools superintendent
Read on for the rest of the week’s education news and more on the superintendent search, including our take on five reasons Vitti might get the job (and three reasons he might not). Send us your thoughts on his pros and cons — or post them on our Facebook page. Thanks for reading!
- In his daylong interview in Detroit on Wednesday, Vitti cast himself as an experienced educator who wants to bring his school turnaround experience to a city he called his “home.”
- Over the course of his 12-hour interview, Vitti addressed a host of issues and vowed, if selected, to take on charter schools and bring district enrollment back up to where it was. (Here’s a take on Vitti’s day in Detroit from his hometown newspaper.)
- Vitti has been a popular leader in Jacksonville but has sparred with the NAACP and sometimes clashed with school board members. Those are among the 10 things we think you should know about Vitti.
- Why should Vitti want to come here? “Football players want to play in the Super Bowl,” a researcher who has studied superintendents told a Jacksonville newspaper. “A track star wants be in the Olympics. Superintendents want to be where the biggest challenges are or where you can make the biggest impact.”
- Detroit’s school board is still under pressure to extend the search, make it more transparent, and add more candidates, including interim chief Alycia Meriweather. (She said this week she’ll “continue to work for kids in Detroit” whatever happens.) For now, the other finalist for the job, River Rouge Superintendent Derrick Coleman, will face the same 12-hour interview process on Monday.
- Coleman this week rebuffed criticism of his efforts to lure Detroit students to River Rouge by sending buses into the city, noting that the move had eliminated his district’s budget deficit. He also says his time as a regional superintendent in Detroit — and his status as a district alum — makes him the best fit for the job. “I understand the city and the needs of the people,” he said.
In other Detroit school news
- The state superintendent is “hopeful” that the partnership agreement his department is negotiating with the district will save 24 Detroit schools from closure. “If we’re focused on the kids and helping them be successful, this partnership can really work,” he said of a deal that is still in the early stages.
- The search of a state senator’s home is tied to the ongoing Detroit school corruption probe.
- Detroit schools were just returned to a locally elected board for the first time in years. But a nonprofit consultant is already arguing that the city’s schools should be run by the mayor. “Mayoral control would ultimately change that conversation about who should be accountable for the Detroit Public Schools Community District and where the buck stops,” he writes.
- Among programs that could be slashed under President Trump’s proposed budget is one that has placed scores of recent college grads in Detroit schools to help students. (Here’s a broader look at how the proposed AmeriCorps cuts could hurt schools.)
- A group of Detroit high school students invited homeless people last weekend to a picnic and resource fair.
- Cass Tech’s principal was named principal of the year by a state association.
- A woman who pleaded guilty to stealing $1.3 million from Detroit schools was scheduled to be sentenced today.
- A new Head Start Center is opening in a historic midtown church.
Across the state
- Gov. Rick Snyder’s education budget differs in several ways from the House and Senate versions.
- House lawmakers have approved changes to Michigan graduation requirements.
- A new bill would let school districts change the school calendar without approval from teachers.
- Another bill would let school districts start the school year in August without a waiver — as long as kids get four-day weekends through Labor Day.
- Despite an ongoing lawsuit over public aid to private schools, state lawmakers are pushing to send more money to private academies. Meanwhile, a News columnist urged public and private schools to work together and the head of a state private school association makes his case for why state taxpayers should help private schools pay to meet state mandates.
- These 50 schools have the state’s highest graduation rates.
- A state charter school association has named five finalists for its top charter school teacher prize.
- A suburban district’s Teacher of the Year was awarded a free car.
- Our story about how changes to the state’s school ranking system affected schools got another look this week from Michigan Radio.