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Dr. Nikolai P. Vitti, Superintendent

vitti Dr. Nikolai P. Vitti is Superintendent of Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) in Jacksonville, Florida. As the nation’s 20th largest school district, he serves nearly 130,000 students within 200 schools through a $1.7 billion dollar budget.  Since his arrival in mid-2012, the school district has reached a historic high in graduation and college readiness rates through the expansion of accelerated programming and early warning systems. DCPS has also surpassed all Florida urban districts in African-American graduation rates while ranking among the first to fourth highest performing urban districts throughout the nation on the National Assessment for Education Progress (NAEP) in the vast majority of assessment categories. The district has been recognized for its expansion of the arts, foreign languages, innovative school programming, school choice options, mental health and progressive discipline strategies, school level leadership development, instructional material selection, and financial transparency and efficiency. Dr. Vitti also successfully secured over $40 million dollars in local philanthropy to transform the district’s historically lowest performing schools with a focus on human capital and technology infusion. Over the last four years, the superintendent has been named Florida Superintendent of the Year for the Arts, Music, and Communications. His initial November, 2012 three and a half year contract was extended for an additional three years after two years of work through a 7-0 school board vote. 

Summary of Accomplishments:

  • Academic Improvement:  Despite a new set of national standards and assessments, the district’s grade increased to a “B” and was maintained for consecutive years for the first time since 2010. 75% of schools are “As-Cs” and 70% of state assessment areas demonstrated improvement and outpaced statewide improvement. 
  • Graduation Rates, Post-Secondary Readiness, and Acceleration: The district’s graduation rate has improved from 67% in 2012 to 78.8% in 2016. The gap between the district and state has been narrowed from 7% to 1%. DCPS’ postsecondary readiness levels in reading have increased from 75% to 84% and mathematics from 53% to 72%. This means that high school graduates avoid college remediation classes. Lastly, the district now ranks first among the largest urban school districts in FL and third among all FL districts (67) for the participation and performance of students enrolled in acceleration courses such as dual enrollment, industry certification, Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and AICE/Cambridge. 
  • Improving Low Performing Schools: Through innovative human capital strategies, in partnership with the Quality Education for All (QEA) a local private funding initiative, 75% of identified QEA schools have maintained or improved their school grade to a “C” or higher. In addition, 90% of “F” schools districtwide improved their letter grade, as did 67% of “F” and “D” schools when combined. 
  • Narrowing the Achievement Gap: The district now ranks first among the largest 7 urban districts in FL in African-American graduation rate and second for English Language Learners. The district ranks 1st to 4th among the largest urban districts nationally in reading and mathematics performance on the NAEP for African-American and ESE students. African-American post-secondary readiness for reading has improved from 67% to 81% and in mathematics from 39% to 66% over the past four years. The district also possesses the narrowest gap between African-American and White students in reading, math, and Algebra among the 7 largest urban school districts in Florida. The graduation rate for students with disabilities has improved by 20 percentage points over the last four years. 
  • Expansion of the Arts: With its refreshing focus on the Whole Child, the district has restored art and music classes and programs to each of its 160 schools while dramatically increasing Jacksonville cultural experiences to museums and live performances. The district now leads all of the largest 7 urban school districts in FL in the percentage of students participating in the arts. 
  • Technology:  Whereas only one school had wireless access three years ago, now each school supports high-density wireless. The district’s ratio of computers to students has improved from 1:3 to 1:1.5 over three years. Blended learning platforms are offered to all students in each school with access provided for home use. OneView, a state-of-the-art portal system, has also been developed and launched to provide all stakeholders, including parents and students, with one-stop access to student academic and behavior data to improve support and intervention. 
  • Increased Parent and Community Engagement:  During the last two years, over 10,000 parents attended courses through the Parent Academy, and a record 18,000 families shopped schools at the School Choice Expo. Thousands of stakeholders were also engaged this past year in multiple communities throughout the county with over 12 “Chat with the Supt.” sessions. 
  • Expansion of School Choice Options and Innovative New Programming: Almost 40% of DCPS parents now exercise their opportunity to select the school or program of their choice. Since 2013-2014, this has led to a 157% decrease in parents leaving the district for private schools. The district is well positioned for more choice options through the creation of early learning centers, a trade high school, single gender schools, military leadership schools, and a distinct and innovative school for students with dyslexia and another school for students with autism.  
  • Leadership Development and Improvement of Instructional Culture and Morale: A pipeline of over 200 new school based leaders has been developed through internal and external training programs with a focus on instructional leadership and human capital development. In an effort to increase instructional time there has been a significant reduction in assessments being given.  Since the 2013-2014 school year, elementary assessments have been reduced by sixteen going from twenty-three to seven, while secondary assessments have been reduced by twenty-one from twenty-nine to eight.  Common planning from elementary to high school was negotiated to provide teachers time to share best practices, develop lessons, and analyze student data. The use of research based and third party surveys has been used to problem solve and reflect on how to improve instructional culture and morale at schools through a reduced principal to principal supervisor ratio of 34:1 to 12:1 to increase feedback and support. Since beginning to assess school culture and staff engagement during the 2013-14 school year, the district has made significant improvement.  The Instructional Culture Index has improved nearly a point from 7.0 in 13-14 to 7.9 in 16-17; any growth on the Index over 0.25 points is considered strong and growth of 1 point or more is considered exceptional.  The Grand Mean for employee engagement grew from 3.73 to 3.95 from 13-14 to 15-16; on that survey, any change of 0.1 points on the Grand Mean is considered significant.  
  • Expansion of Wrap Around Services: Through the annual engagement of a broad representation of stakeholders, the district has continually refined the Code of Conduct to progressively support students over the last three years. In school suspension teachers and classes, along with the staffing of Deans of Discipline, was implemented in each secondary school to proactively improve student behavior, which has led to the reduction of Level 3 and 4 violations and student arrests. Since 2012-13, the number of Restorative Justice events have increased from 26 to 8753. Through a partnership with the Non Violence Project, life coaches have been placed in all secondary schools to support the most at-risk students and the 5000 Role Models program was implemented to directly mentor African-American and Hispanic males. 
Prior to being named Superintendent of DCPS, Dr. Vitti was the Chief Academic Officer of Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS), the nation’s 4th largest school district in the country, which won the Broad Prize for Excellence in Urban Excellence.  Prior to serving as the district’s Chief Academic Officer, he was the Assistant Superintendent of the Education Transformation Office (ETO) where he autonomously led a region of 26 schools identified as “persistently lowest-achieving.” Under his leadership, the ETO schools improved their performance in nearly each area of school accountability and avoided state sanctions.  Under his leadership, ETO was recognized as a model for turnaround by both the USDOE/FLDOE. 
 
Before returning to Miami to lead ETO, Dr. Vitti served as Deputy Chancellor of School Improvement and Student Achievement at the FLDOE as well as Bureau Chief of School Improvement/Executive Director for Region One/Lead Director.  In these roles, he led the state’s school improvement and accountability efforts by seeking to build the capacity of superintendents, district administrators, principals, and teachers on school improvement initiatives.  He also guided the work of five regional offices that directly served the state’s lowest performing schools and their districts.  He managed the Bureaus of School Improvement, Federal Education Programs, Family and Community Outreach, Federal Programs, Early Learning, Just Read Florida!, and Equal Educational Opportunities.  
 
Before joining the FLDOE, Dr. Vitti served as principal of Homestead Middle in M-DCPS, where he moved the school from a “D” to a high “B” and improved the school in each accountability area.  Before his appointment as principal, Dr. Vitti joined the cabinet of M-DCPS as the Knowledge Management Officer, where he was responsible for coordinating multiple district-wide initiatives. Prior to working in Miami, Dr. Vitti played an instrumental role in transforming the educational culture of a 4,000 student high school in the Bronx, New York as a Dean of Discipline.  Dr. Vitti began his educational career as a teacher at both the high school and middle school level in North Carolina and New York City where he notably raised student achievement in the classroom. 
 
Dr. Vitti received the prestigious Presidential Scholarship from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and was a member of the Urban Superintendent Program, which has developed a number of successful superintendents throughout the country.  He has served on the cabinet of three National Superintendents of the Year, and is currently a member of the 2017 Broad Leadership Academy. In 2012, he completed his doctorate from Harvard in Education, Administration, Planning and Social Policy.  He received his Masters in the same field from Harvard.  Dr. Vitti also holds a Masters in Education from Wake Forest University where he was awarded a Master Teacher Fellowship, and a B.A. in History.  As an undergraduate, he earned Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa recognition.  Dr. Vitti is married with four school-age children who attend public schools.

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