Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Point of View; School Board: Healing Hurtful Words

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Point of View; School Board: Healing Hurtful Words

Article excerpt

Byline: Julie Delegal

Last December, I reported that Miami attorney Robert H. Fernandez had singled out three Duval County School Board members for public records requests.

I warned that those members should prepare for political hardball, given the threats that charter school lobbyist Ralph Arza made on South Florida TV in the wake of an anti-charter school vote there.

Arza, a disgraced former House member, threatened to bring ethics complaints against board members who voted "no" on charter schools.

A day later, Fernandez targeted Becki Couch, Paula Wright and Connie Hall for public records, which often form the basis of ethics complaints.

Other than both Fernandez and Arza having been lieutenants in Jeb Bush-brand education reform, their connection is tenuous.

In response to Fernandez's request, texts from last September from board member Connie Hall emerged on Feb. 11.

Venting to her friend in the district's internal auditing office, Hall texted, "I vote, fire him now," followed by 15 exclamation points.

The "him" is unmistakably Duval Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti. And his contentious relationship with Hall is nothing new.

But that's not all.

In what can generously be described as a profound lapse in professional judgment, Hall texted, "Wow, and he thinks he can do that? Special Ed in action," responding to Vitti's desire to attend a public school leadership event.

It's hard to see how referring to the superintendent as "Special Ed," in any context, would not constitute a slur.

The Harvard-educated Vitti has been open about his struggles with dyslexia, he said in a statement, in order to inspire students.

Vitti's declaration of a "hostile work environment," however, is disappointing. His use of that legal term of art smacks of an intent to bail out of his contract with a fat severance settlement.

That would be bad for a district in the middle of a proposed transition plan that Vitti just started. …

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