Vitti to take over Detroit schools Tuesday

Holly Fournier
The Detroit News

Detroit — Nikolai Vitti will officially become Detroit schools’ new superintendent Tuesday, replacing interim chief Alycia Meriweather earlier than initially planned, according to the district.

Meriweather will “serve as a senior adviser and direct report to Dr. Vitti through June 30” when her contract expires, officials with the Detroit Public Schools Community District said in a statement.

The plan departs from one discussed immediately after Vitti’s selection, when board members indicated he would initially serve on a transition team while Meriweather remained interim superintendent.

“His original start date was going to be July 1 but his contract is effective immediately,” district spokeswoman Chrystal Wilson said of Tuesday’s start. “(Meriweather) will no longer be interim superintendent. She will continue to take care of the day-to-day operations while Dr. Vitti transitions.”

Vitti has said he hopes Meriweather will remain with the district beyond June 30.

“I think she’s been an excellent ambassador of the district, of the employees and of the children especially,” Vitti said in a previous interview with The Detroit News. “I would certainly believe that there is a place for her on the team. It’s just trying to figure out where.”

Meriweather did not respond to requests for comment.

Vitti’s five-year contract was approved Monday by the district’s financial review commission, paving the way for his official start. It previously was approved by the school board.

Vitti, 40, was selected last month to lead Michigan’s largest district, overseeing more than 6,000 employees, 48,000 students and an annual fiscal budget of $660 million. His contract pays $295,000 at the start.

“We are thrilled to work with Dr. Vitti on our journey to excellence,” Board President Iris Taylor said. “We are confident that his passion for students and families, his qualifications, and his previous experience make him uniquely positioned to be a change agent for this district.”

Vitti will “hit the ground running” on Tuesday with school visits, listening sessions and informal meet-and-greets with teachers, parents and staff, officials said. His planned first 100 days were detailed in a document released to the school board during the interview process.

“I want to engage and listen to everyone who must share in the collective ownership of creating stronger outcomes for all of our students,” Vitti said in a statement. “I am profoundly grateful for this opportunity to return to my roots and work with the newly elected school board to move the district forward and eventually set it above all large urban school districts in the country.”

Vitti previously spent more than four years as superintendent of Duval County Public Schools in Jacksonville, Florida. The district has a fiscal budget of $1.7 billion and serves more than 128,000, has 198 schools and ranks as the 20th largest school district in the country.

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Twitter: @HollyPFournier