Melissa Ross: School Superintendent Vitti on Bathrooms

May 17, 2016 1 comment Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti joined the show to discuss the Obama administration's guidance on transgender students and their use of bathrooms in public schools. Dr. Vitti explains how Duval County will handle this new nationwide mandate.

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A South Carolina school district is updating its policy to allow transgender students to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity.

The news comes one week after a transgender student threatened legal action against Horry County Schools for suspending him for using the "wrong" bathroom.

The student, who wished to not be identified for fear of outing himself, said a teacher followed him to the bathroom this year. He used the boys' restroom despite recent orders from the school to use the girls' facilities or the nurse's bathroom, and he was suspended for one day.

The suspension will be removed from his record, Superintendent Rick Maxey said in a letter to the Transgender Law Center that was shared with CNN. Horry County Schools did not immediately respond to a request for confirmation.

"I assure you that the Horry County School District will make every effort to be in full compliance with Title IX. We also will continue to be a welcoming school environment for all students," Maxey said in an earlier statement to CNN.

The student decided to enroll in online classes rather than return to school.

Before his senior year, he had been using the boys' room since seventh grade without a problem, according to his mother and his lawyer. Then, in October, a teacher complained, and school administrators told him he could no longer use the boys' room. After word got out among the school administration, some teachers started using female pronouns to refer to him, effectively outing him, he said.
He has not decided whether to return to the Horry County Schools. His grades have improved since he left, and he's on track to finish early. But he hopes to participate in graduation, his mother said.

"We are so grateful and excited about this outcome, and that my son might now be able to walk across the stage and graduate with his class," said Lynne, the student's mother. "While this doesn't erase the harm done to my son, it means a lot to us that no other student in the district will have to go through what my son went through."

About Dr. Nicolai Vitti

Dr. Nikolai P. Vitti was selected as Superintendent of Duval County Public Schools (DCPS), the 20th largest district in the country, in September of 2012. Dr. Vitti and the School Board initiated a new strategic plan focusing on developing great educators and leaders; ensuring an equitable and efficient use of resources; engaging parents, caregivers, and the community; and developing the whole child.

Using the new Strategic Plan as a guidepost, Dr. Vitti developed a School Allocation Plan that equally distributed resources across over 160 schools, passed a $1.7 billion dollar budget, and completed a reorganization of the District Office shifting resources to schools, including the expansion of music and art programs at each elementary and middle school.

Prior to being named Superintendent of Duval County, Dr. Vitti was the Chief Academic Officer of Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) which won the Broad Prize for Excellence in Urban Excellence in 2013. As the Chief Academic Officer, he led the 66 lowest-performing schools in the county while also driving the work of Language Arts/Reading, Math, Science, Social Studies, Career and Technical Education, Early Childhood Education/Head Start, School Improvement, Title I, HIPPY, Title II and Summer Programs district-wide for over 320 schools.

Prior to serving as the district’s Chief Academic Officer, Dr. Vitti was the Assistant Superintendent of the Education Transformation Office (ETO) where he autonomously led a region of 26 schools identified as “persistently lowest-achieving” by the USDOE/FLDOE. Under his leadership, the 26 ETO schools increased in almost all areas of school accountability and all previously identified Intervene Schools (lowest performing category) improved and avoided sanctions. In addition, each of the 10 high schools improved their graduation rate by an average of 12 percentage points and participation and performance in Advanced Placement, Dual Enrollment and Industry Certification courses significantly increased through an emphasis on infusing a college-going culture in secondary schools. Under his leadership, ETO was recognized as a model for urban education and turnaround by both the USDOE/FLDOE.

Before returning to Miami to lead ETO, Dr. Vitti served as Deputy Chancellor of Schools Improvement and Student Achievement at the FLDOE as well as Bureau Chief of School Improvement/Executive Director for Region One/Lead Director for Differentiated Accountability. In these roles, he led statewide professional development for 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. Dr. Vitti began his educational career as a teacher at both the high school and middle school level in North Carolina and New York where he notably raised student achievement at each school.

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. 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 Master’s 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 all attend public schools.

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