Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

5 Outsiders for Top School Posts; Vitti Wants Fresh Mix for Cabinet; to Seek Board's OK on Dec. 4

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

5 Outsiders for Top School Posts; Vitti Wants Fresh Mix for Cabinet; to Seek Board's OK on Dec. 4

Article excerpt

Byline: Khristopher J. Brooks

Duval County Superintendent Nikolai Vitti is wasting no time filling top administrator positions in his leadership team.

At the Dec. 4 School Board meeting, Vitti plans to fill five top-level openings, jobs that will report directly to him. The superintendent plans to hire people he has worked with directly or indirectly during his years at the state education department and at Miami-Dade County Public Schools.

None of the hires are locals, a move Vitti did purposely so that the entire cabinet would have a mix of outsiders and folks from inside the district.

If approved by the School Board, these five appointments would join a larger team of cabinet-level administrators, which include the chief of technology, chief of operations and chief of human resources.

Vitti said he chose these five people because they are former teachers who process information quickly and "know how to raise student achievement, even the CFO."

"They all know schools," he said. "They bring a very practical and real experience in schools, which you don't always find at the district level."

Wendy LeHockey is slated to be Vitti's chief of staff.

For the past two and a half years, LeHockey held a similar position when Vitti led the Miami-Dade County's Education Transformation Office. LeHockey said she will perform well because she works at Vitti's "rapid fire" pace.

"I understand the speed of how he works and how he thinks," she said. "When he has something he wants done, he doesn't think there's time to waste."

LeHockey has in-laws in the Jacksonville-area, so she said it was a no-brainer for her to say yes to the job.

"But if I can be perfectly honest, I would travel across the country to work for Dr. Vitti," she said. "I believe in what he can do."

The chief of staff position isn't new for the Duval school district; it just hasn't been filled for a while. The last chief of staff was David Sundstrom in 2008.

Only a few weeks on the job, Vitti said he wanted to hire people soon so the work toward raising student achievement can begin.

"I've been across town talking about what I'm going to do, now we need to start working," he said. "There's a sense of change in Jacksonville, so, quickly, we have to shift to implementation because soon people are going to ask aeWhat does your change look like? What have you done?' "

LaTrell H. Edwards is slated to become Vitti's chief financial officer. She now works as the bureau chief of federal educational programs for the state education department.

Edwards said she wants to look into "what do we need to do to invest our funds wisely into student achievement."

"I like to be hands on," she said. "I like to know how is the funding working in a school."

Vitti said he wanted Edwards as his CFO because she is a very good communicator and will likely lead the conversations during the upcoming budget process. …

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