Nikolai Vitti will be the first permanent superintendent to lead the new Detroit Public Schools Community District.
In its first major decision, the district’s new school board unanimously chose the 40-year-old Dearborn Heights native, who is currently superintendent of Duval County Public Schools in Jacksonville, FL.
Board members say Vitti has a track record of turning around struggling schools.
Still, many Detroit residents see the school board’s choice as problematic. Many feel Interim Superintendent Alicia Meriwether should have been considered because of how she guided Detroit schools through a series of critical tests in the last year.
“On paper… he has all the bells and whistles that [the school board] were looking for,” says Pratt Dawsey. ”A lot of their decision is being guided by the state law that created the new school district last year. They had to look at hiring someone who had some expertise in reforming schools,” she says.
Henderson and Pratt Dawsey also discuss the fact that Vitti, a white man, will be the superintendent of a predominantly black city. This will be the first time since 1966 that Detroit has both a white superintendent and a white mayor at the same time.
“Most of the kids in the Detroit Public Schools are African-American, and they’re poor… there are parents who very understandably want someone in the role who understands the achievement gap,” Pratt Dawsey says.
“What we have to understand is that he is like a lot of the parents in Detroit Public Schools in that he has the achievement gap living in his home. He has four black children.”
Click on the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.