Movers and shakers

Former Teach For America leader appointed to State Board of Education

PHOTO: Marta W. Aldrich
The Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville

Gov. Bill Haslam has appointed Teach For America’s former national vice president for recruitment to the State Board of Education, a board spokeswoman confirmed Thursday.

Elissa Kim
Elissa Kim

Elissa Kim will replace vice-chairwoman Carolyn Pearre, who represents Tennessee’s 5th congressional district, including Davidson, Cheatham and Dickson counties.

Kim joined Teach For America’s staff in 1999 after serving as a teacher corps member in New Orleans. She oversaw recruitment for the organization until 2015.

She also served a term on the school board for Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, choosing not to seek reelection in 2016.

On the school board, Kim occasionally came under fire for her ties to Teach For America. Critics said her role with the organization posed a conflict of interest on votes regarding the approval of charter schools that promised to contract with Teach For America. Charters have been a deeply divisive issue within the board, and Kim said she tried to go down the middle, according to her 2013 interview with the Nashville Scene. She recused herself from voting on the district’s contract with TFA.

Kim is a graduate of Northwestern University, where she majored in history and religion.

Haslam also recently appointed Tiffany Cook as the student member of the State Board of Education. Cook attends Cherokee High School in Hawkins County.

The State Board sets education policy for Tennessee according to recommendations from the State Department of Education and legislation passed by the Tennessee General Assembly. The board has nine members who serve five-year terms.

And then there were six

Jeffco school board narrows pool for superintendent search

Jefferson County school board President Ron Mitchell. (Photo by Nicholas Garcia, Chalkbeat)

The six remaining candidates for the Jeffco Public Schools superintendent job are all sitting superintendents, the board chairman said Friday.

“I think we clearly will have a difficult decision to make,” said Ron Mitchell, Jeffco’s school board president.

The application for the superintendent of the second largest district in Colorado closed earlier this month. Mitchell said 69 people submitted complete applications.

The Jeffco board voted in January to launch a national search for a new superintendent, six months before the contract with Dan McMinimee, the superintendent at the time, expired. In choosing not to renew McMinimee’s contract, the board cited concerns about the process that a previous board used to hire McMinimee, and members said they wondered if they could find a better leader.

In launching a new search for a superintendent, the board has expressed a desire to hire someone who is experienced. McMinimee came to the Jeffco job having been an assistant superintendent in the Douglas County School District, but without experience as a superintendent. In feedback gathered by a search firm hired by the district, community groups rated leadership and people skills as important traits for the job.

Last month, McMinimee left the position after reaching an agreement with the board to redesign his role with the district until his contract expires at the end of June.

The search firm, Ray and Associates — the same one used to find McMinimee — narrowed down the candidates to 11. At their board meeting Thursday night, Jeffco school board members reviewed the contenders until past midnight until they narrowed down the pool to six.

The remaining candidates will be interviewed in private by the board starting Wednesday. Only when candidates are designated finalists is the district required to identify them publicly.

The new boss

Detroit superintendent pick Nikolai Vitti: I’ve been ‘drafted by my home team’

PHOTO: Duval County Public Schools
Superintendent Nikolai Vitti visits classrooms in Duval County, Florida on the first day of school in 2016.

Florida Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said learning this week that has been selected to run Detroit schools was like learning he’d been “drafted by my home team.”

Vitti, who grew up in Dearborn Heights but has lived in North Carolina, New York and Florida throughout his career, is now the superintendent of the Duval County Public Schools in Jacksonville, Florida.

Vitti on Wednesday issued a statement celebrating his selection:

When I learned of the board’s decision last night it felt as if it were announced that I was drafted by my home team. It was a proud moment for my entire family and I. To be selected as the first superintendent by the newly elected board and new district is humbling and an honor. I look forward to working through the contract phase of the process as soon as possible in order to serve the children and families of Detroit.

The new Detroit school board, which took office in January, voted unanimously Tuesday night to start contract talks with Vitti in hopes that he will take over the district by July 1. He beat out River Rouge Superintendent Derrick Coleman for the job.

The board said Tuesday night that it would ask Vitti to work on a transition team with Interim Superintendent Alycia Meriweather as he prepares to take over the district. Meriweather was the preferred candidate of many Detroiters but was eliminated from consideration for the permanent position last month after school board members decided they wanted someone with at least three years of experience running a school district.