“The School Board should have let us choose the new superintendent.” –The Civic Council

Jason Fischer led off by amending his J-bill to change the Duval County School Board from an elected body to a mayor-appointed one. Now he wants to make the Superintendent of Schools an elected position.

The Charter Review Commission has taken up the idea and they are brooking no opposition. In an astounding confusion over how a Jaguars game should end and how a public commission should end its meeting, the Chair, Lindsey Brock, gaveled an end to yesterday’s meeting at 12 Noon sharp, not only depriving attending citizens of their right to public comment, but also cutting off two commission members who were going to dissent.

The idea was first floated by Jacksonville’s mayor, whom Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) affectionately calls ‘Boss Curry.’

To understand all this, we have to go back to the Nikolai Vitti years, when the now-Detroit superintendent was running Jacksonville’s schools.

One of the puzzling aspects of Dr. Vitti’s leadership was that he didn’t seem to regard the elected School Board as the persons who hired him and to whom he was accountable. He seemed to act like the persons he really answered to were the unelected wealthy and political elite of the city, who (at the time) controlled the entity Jacksonville Public Education Fund and worked out their desires out of the scrutiny of the public through the private organization known as the Civic Council, whose point man on education is Gary Chartrand, the Ponte Vedra businessman who has pulled strings in Jacksonville for over a decade.

We learned this in a moment of candor when a former mayor, John Delaney, said, “For what it’s worth I’ve been warning Gary (Chartrand) and others for years that Vitti’s weaknesses need to be managed.”

After Nikolai Vitti resigned to take the superintendent job in Detroit, the School Board began the process of hiring a new leader for Jacksonville’s schools. It was at this time that the Civic Council intervened as they argued that a school board election was six months away and that the new board members should be the ones to hire the superintendent. In the meantime, they would do the city a favor by conducting a search for candidates themselves and selecting the person who should be hired.

To say it displeased Gary Chartrand and his Civic Council pals as well as others in the elite that the School Board ignored them, went ahead with a search, and hired Dr. Diana Greene would be an understatement.

It’s not personal, but she won’t answer to them. She works with the School Board, the constitutional, elected officers entrusted with oversight of the city’s school system. They cannot stand that and they are out to change it.

The first idea floated was to change the school board from elected to appointed. That would require approval by the city’s voters and the idea is deeply unpopular. If Boss Curry could appoint the school board, he could control it like he does JEA and other city boards and dictate his decisions to them.

But it is unlikely he could gain that control. So the solution is to take the superintendent away from the Board, thus rendering them impotent as far as policy-making goes.

A county-wide election would place the position into large fund-raising needs in order to gain name recognition among the electorate. That favors any candidate put forth by the wealthy elite.

Are you now getting it? Boss Curry, along with the concurrence of the elite, sees that control of the schools lies in being able to determine who the superintendent is.

And they don’t want Diana Greene.

They want to privatize the city’s schools. Greene would revive them, especially in the long-ignored places like the Northwest corridor.

Rebuild schools with a sales tax? They oppose that. They know that Greene’s success in Manatee County in having the voters approve a supplemental tax has resulted in rising enrollment numbers in Manatee’s traditional schools.

Diana Greene is a nightmare for those who claim that the only chance a child has in Jacksonville is in a charter school. (Looking at you, Rory Diamond, and your attempt to walk back on First Coast Connect last Monday didn’t work.)

Don’t believe them when they say that the voters desire to choose is what they want.

They want to get rid of Diana Greene.

They want a superintendent who will turn the city’s schools over to private operators.

It’s about money and control, not serving the needs of the city, its citizens, and its children.

The irony of all this is that the last time Jacksonville had an elected superintendent was during the pre-consolidation days. You remember that time when the schools lost their accreditation.

GOT is only expressing an opinion here, but it seems to him the Boss Curry, his minions, the City Council, and the Civic Council would be okay if that happened.

They could close all the schools and make Jacksonville 100% charter in one move.

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