The Duval County School Board, when fully staffed, is a seven-person body. However, just one resignation or absence can turn the DCSB into a six-person panel. And, in the event of a controversial or closely contested issue, a 3-3 tie is quite likely.
The board wasn’t at full strength earlier this year, after Rep. Jason Fischer resigned to run for the state House, and during that period a rift surfaced between Ashley Smith-Juarez (the chair of the board at the time) and Superintendent Nikolai Vitti.
Smith-Juarez had suggested Vitti take his talents elsewhere, and while there never was a vote to release Vitti from his contract, the situation illustrated the pitfalls of a shorthanded board … especially if a chair had the tiebreaker in addition to her own vote.
A local bill that may get pushed next session in Tallahassee, if a Jacksonville City Council resolution passes, may change that perceived imbalance of power.
Resolution 2016-782, sponsored by Councilman Aaron Bowman, would express support for a J-Bill that would amend the Florida statute so that the vote of the Duval County School Board chair would not break a tie. In 2006, the Legislature adopted a measure for Orange County that dictated that, in counties with between 800,000 and 900,000 people, the school board chair’s vote breaks the tie.
Councilman Bowman said it is his understanding the entire Duval County School Board supports this measure.