School Board fires superintendent

The Duval County School Board has scheduled a special Tuesday meeting to discuss Superintendent Joseph Wise's contract, which extends through Oct. 31, 2009. Four of seven votes are needed to terminate his employment. Wise has been superintendent since November 2005.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

In today's Times-Union

Board Chairwoman Vicki Drake said she and her colleagues are in no rush to begin a superintendent search.

Read a recap of yesterday's events at http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stories/101807/met_209428449.shtml

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Board Votes Unanimously to Give Wise $275,000

Technically, Wise was allowed to resign and receive compensation equal to a year's salary, or $275,000.

By the way, ousted Superintendent Joseph Wise and Chief of Staff David Sundstrom did not attend the meeting. No one spoke on their behalf either, but Wise's lawyers have been in contact with the board's attorneys over the past days.

The board also vote unanimously to keep Sundstrom on administrative leave (he and Wise were put on leave at the meeting yesterday). They didn't discuss whether that will be paid or unpaid, and his contract expires June 30, 2008. Sundstrom is paid roughly $160,000 annually and he has 8 months left on his contract.

Chairwoman Vicki Drake is now sharing some encouraging words with the audience.

"We are not going to miss a beat. You watch, great things are going to happen in Duval County," she said. "Keep the faith and stay in there with us because Duval County is headed onward and upward."

What do you guys think about the agreement with Wise?


Lawyers Recommend One Year's Pay to Wise

The General Counsel's Office recommends that Superintendent Joseph Wise receive one year's pay under settlement agreement that allows him to immediately part ways with the district.

His annual salary is $275,000. By striking this deal, Wise gets a large sum of money but the board also gets to have him out of office immediately, as they would like. Both sides avoid any potential court battles.

A motion is on the floor for the board to accept the attorney's recommendation. Now they are discussing it.

It seems like the crowd is ready for a vote. Many people in the audience visibly or audibly sighed when board members began asking questions, delaying a vote.

Setting the Stage for Part II

Folks are gathering for the meeting and the crowd is a little smaller than yesterday, though the room is still pretty full. But there seems to be even more media here today.
Right now, all seven board members are already on the dais. I haven't seen Superintendent Joseph Wise or Chief of Staff David Sundstrom and doesn't look like they will take their seats.
The board members look pretty relaxed. Everyone was smiling before the meeting.
Karen Chastain and Cindy Laquidara from the General Counsel's Office have just taken their seats. They represented the School Board in ironing out the settlement agreement with Wise.
Just in case someone needs catching up, the School Board voted to fire Wise yesterday. The settlement agreement could give him compensation between $70,000 and $600,000, depending on where the board's lawyers and the district's lawyers come to agreement.
Chairwoman Vicki Drake just started the meeting and Laquidara has begun speaking. Keep tuned in.


“Important Message” from interim Superintendent Ed Pratt-Dannals

I am gearing up for the 4 p.m. School Board meeting to discuss the
separation agreement with ousted Superintendent Joseph Wise. Look for
live posts soon, just like yesterday.

Before I go, I want to leave you with an e-mail interim
Superintendent Ed Pratt-Dannals sent to all district employees last
night. In it, he both encourages and assures the systems' 15,000
teachers, staff and administrators in light of recent events. I found
this message while reading Wise's e-mails this morning.


Date: Tuesday, October 16, 2007 6:20 PM
Subject: Important Message

With so much information floating around about what happened today at
the Special School Board meeting to discuss Superintendent Wise's
contract, I want to assure you that we are staying the course. We
will continue to work with the Board to provide quality education for
all students in Duval County Public Schools.

As you have probably heard, Superintendent Wise was put on
Administrative Leave until a decision is made by the Board at the
continuation of the Special Board meeting tomorrow at 4 p.m.

The Board voted this morning to give me delegation of authority over
the school district until the Board makes their final decision.

We have a strong team in place and we will continue to focus on
teaching and learning and student achievement.

Keep up the great work. I will continue to update you as we move
forward with the great things that are happening at DCPS. If you
have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me.

Ed Pratt-Dannals

Acting Superintendent

Wise: Before I Go, About That Bonus …

For those that have kept up with my coverage over time, you know that I sometimes read the Superintendent's e-mails. Well, I was doing some catching up this morning and came across a chain of e-mails that began Monday when Wise tried to collect his $6,000 bonus.
This is money Wise has been due since this summer, when it became clear he met two of nine performance goals in his contract. He is owed $4,000 for drastically increasing Advanced Placement enrollment and $1,733.33 for increasing the percentage of students promoted to the next grade level.
Some have criticized the superintendent about the bonus because they come in two categories in which he exerted direct control. As you may recall, he ordered high school principals to triple the number of students taking AP, and, with the School Board's blessing, he changed the promotion requirements for middle and high school students.
Another interesting twist: Wise said this summer that wanted to donate his bonus to a local education non-profit, likely the Alliance for World Class Education. Many of the prominent business people who are members of the Alliance are the same folks who supported the board in parting ways with Wise.
Before I share excerpts from the e-mail chain, I want to let you know I'll be adding entries here throughout the day and blogging live from the 4 p.m. meeting this evening when the board will discuss the settlement agreement with Wise. Check in often, and continue to leave your comments.

From: Wise, Joseph J.
Sent: Monday, October 15, 2007 7:42 AM
To: Giles, Thresa C.; Reynolds, Vicki R.; Ballentine, Timothy R.
Subject: Appendix B

TG [Note from Tia: Dr. Wise loves to abbreviate. In emails, he uses initials to address people and sign his name]

In light of the drama ensuing, it is wise to calculate the appendix B bonus pay owed me and submit accordingly. We should calculate and wrap this up today if possible.


From: "Ballentine, Timothy R." <ballentint@dreamsbeginhere.org>
Date: Mon, 15 Oct 2007 11:04:31 -0400
To: "Wise, Joseph J." <wisej@dreamsbeginhere.org>, "Giles, Thresa C." <gilest@dreamsbeginhere.org>, "Reynolds, Vicki R." <ReynoldsV@dreamsbeginhere.org>
Subject: RE: Appendix B

... According to my calculations, the Superintendent is entitled to performance pay in the amount of $5,733.33 for the 2006-07 school year based on the results in targets #7 and #8.

From: Wise, Joseph J.
Sent: Monday, October 15, 2007 11:08 AM
To: Ballentine, Timothy R.; Giles, Thresa C.; Reynolds, Vicki R.
Subject: Re: Appendix B


Who takes this from here?

From: "Reynolds, Vicki R." <ReynoldsV@dreamsbeginhere.org>
Date: Mon, 15 Oct 2007 13:23:17 -0400
To: "Wise, Joseph J." <wisej@dreamsbeginhere.org>, "Ballentine, Timothy R." <ballentint@dreamsbeginhere.org>, "Giles, Thresa C." <gilest@dreamsbeginhere.org>
Subject: RE: Appendix B

As soon as Karen Chastain [Note from Tia: she is the school system's attorney] verifies Tim's calculations, I will submit for payment.

Vicki Reynolds
Chief Human Resource Officer

Delaware readers keeping up

Delaware media are keeping their eye on what's going on here with Dr. Wise.

Wise was formerly the Christina School District superintendent before coming to Jacksonville in 2005. The Christina School District, which is located in Wilmington, is Delaware's largest.

Check out DelewareOnline.com's most recent story at http://www.delawareonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071017/NEWS03/710170358/1006/NEWS . Check out their readers' comments.

An AM radio station, WDEL, also has coverage at http://www.wdel.com/news.php?n=N&s=3 .

Are you reading this from Delaware? What are teachers, parents, students or anyone else saying about what's going on up here?

Wise is out; now what?

Both sides have until 4 p.m. today to reach a settlement. Read more about this at http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stories/101707/met_209123401.shtml

Learn more about Ed Pratt-Dannals, the district's interim superintendent, at http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stories/101707/met_209123389.shtml.

Columnist Mark Woods writes about Wise's time as superintendent at http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stories/101707/woo_209117048.shtml.

Also, many readers wrote in to Rants & Raves to discuss the issue. Take a look at some of them at http://www.jacksonville.com/community/cc/rrmetro/

What do you think should be done next? What qualities should the next superintendent have?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Reporter's video notebook

Tia Mitchell's video blog that summarizes today's meeting and the events leading up to it has now been posted. To watch it click here.

Drake statement

The following statement was read by Chairwoman Vicki Drake before the board voted to fire Wise.

"I have called today's meeting to allow the board members to discuss the superintendent's employment contract, and, if appropriate, to allow the General Counsel's Office to advise us of our rights under the superintendent's employment contract. In order to facilitate this board's mission today, I do not plan to recognize any speakers other than the board members and General Counsel's office."

"Given the events that have occurred since the board members' evaluations of Dr. Wise this past summer, there have been certain actions and escalating events that give me concern about the superintendent's management of the District, as well as his compliance with statutory and contract duties."

"Elements include actions I believe taken by Dr. Wise that may be injurious to the district and therefore impedes our most important goal of fostering student achievement. Other concerns are the proper management of the district's business and affairs, and Dr. Wise failing to appropriately recognize the role of the Board according to the requirements of the law. Accordingly, as chair, I have called this special meeting to review the superintendent's contract. the agenda today is limited to the narrow issue of the superintendent's contract and does not include any other side issues that have recently arisen — because today is not the appropriate time and this isn't the appropriate forum for discussing these other issues with the board."

After she read this statement, Tommy Hazouri made the motion that ultimately led to the 6-1 vote to terminate Wise.

It's Official: Wise Terminated

The vote was 6-1, with Kris Barnes -- the one board member who has always expressed the need for the superintendent and the board to mend their issues -- casting the dissenting vote. Here is the official roll call:
Voting for termination: Chairwoman Vicki Drake, Vice Chairwoman Betty Burney, Brenda Priestly Jackson, Nancy Broner, Tommy Hazouri, Martha Barrett
Against termination: Kris Barnes

Despite the General Counsel's office pleas for board members to make no public statements, they were bombared by media after the meeting adjourned, which was immediately after the vote was taken.

Now that the motion passed, Wise and Chief of Staff David Sundstrom are on administrative leave. I think they have left the building, but I am going to try to find them to get some reaction.

The General Counsel's Office will now begin working on the official termination documents. During the meeting board members laid out their "cause" for termination, which is important to the board.

Under Wise's contract, there are only two ways to terminate him
1: failure to perform his duties, which some board members say he has. He has several duties outlined in his contract.
2: "serious misconduct" that is "injurious" to the school system. Other board members say some of his recent actions qualifies under this.

If Wise is terminated "for cause" he is only eligible for compensation equal to 90 days pay, which is roughly $70,000.

If he is terminated and there is no cause, he must be paid through the duration of his contract. He makes $275,000 a year and his contract has two years remaining, which means the superintendent could be paid roughly $600,000.

That is why the board is being so pain-staking in taking a day to work with attorneys to draft out his termination agreement and attempt to lay out "cause."

Now, I'm off to finish reporting out this story (a little journalist-speak for you). And the School Board and district staff still have other work to do today, such as reviewing the agenda for the upcoming November board meeting. Ed Pratt-Dannals takes over right this minute because that workshop is starting now.

Continue to comment below. I am reading every one and trying to respond to questions you guys have. I will update the blog again, especially after I speak with Interim Superintendent Ed Pratt-Dannals.

And read tomorrow's Times-Union for the full report.

Blogging live and loving it,

Board votes to fire Wise

Board members vote 6-1 to fire Superintendent Joseph Wise. The dissenting vote was cast by Kris Barnes.
Wise is now on immediate paid leave while negotiations on a settlement take place.

Public Comment Ends, Board Members Speak

I guess I didn't hear the part about the board only allowing 15 minutes for public comment. After Williams' passionate statement (read below), another lady spoke that pleaded with the board to work things out with Wise.

Then, Alex Wilson, a 6th grader, approached the microphone. He proceeded to chastise Wise for not looking at him while he spoke, though some in the audience began grumbling about little Alex's strong words directed at Wise. But Alex was right, as he talked, Wise was looking down, even as Alex demanded eye contact. Alex is the little boy who brought the petition signed by his classmates demanding Wise's resignation (read below).

After two other speakers, public comment was called to an end.

The board just agreed that after they vote on the motion on the floor, they will recess. The meeting will continue tomorrow at 4 p.m.

Right now, the board is discussing the motion. They are individually laying out their case for or against terminating Wise. They have unlimited time to speak. After each gets their chance, they will vote.

By the way, the General Counsel's Office has asked the elected board members not to speak publicly about the superintendent's termination, so do not expect to hear anything from them beyond what they say during the meeting.

Don't forget to leave your comments below.

Blogging live all morning,

Board Makes Motion to Fire Wise

To begin the meeting, Chairwoman Vicki Drake read a prepared statement outlining her own personal concerns about Superintendent Joseph Wise's conduct and these concerns are the reason today's meeting was called. She then said it would be appropriate at this time for a board member to make a motion to terminate Wise "for cause."

That motion was made by board member Tommy Hazouri and seconded by Vice Chairwoman Betty Burney. Both Drake and Hazouri read from prepared statements. I am working on getting my hands on them, and they will be published when I do.

Now that a motion was on the floor, the public was given a chance to comment. The first person allowed to speak was Wise's legal representation, but Wise said he had none present.

Next up was long time educator, school cluster chief and former principal Jim Williams. His speech was empassioned in defense of Wise, almost to the point of yelling into the microphone. His voice cracked as he told the board they were making the wrong decision.

"You are making a very bad mistake if you intend to go in the direction that I think you're going," Williams said. "I think this district is in the process of making positive changes to educate our young people ... Is this action because of a perception of disrespect or are there legitimate issues?"

Williams then turned his attention to Wise, telling him "never, never, never, never give up."

Public comment will probably take a while. After that, the board will vote on the motion to fire Wise. If that motion carries, the meeting will be recessed, likely until tomorrow, while the board, Wise and the General Counsel's office work on his termination agreement.

In the meantime, Wise and Chief of Staff David Sundstrom will be put on administrative leave, according to the motion Hazouri made. That is to keep them from making any decisions in the interim. Ed Pratt-Dannals, the system's deputy superintendent, will be in charge.

Meeting About To Start

As usual, the School Board meeting is running a bit late.

However, the room is already nearly full.

I just saw Superintendent Joseph Wise laugh with board member Nancy Broner.

Just in case you're wondering about the set up, Chairwoman Vicki Drake sits front and center, and Wise sits next to her. Also sitting on the dais at the end is Wise's chief of staff and best friend David Sundstrom.

Wise's executive staff sits at the very front of the audience, including several people he hired and a couple from his old district in Delaware.

The room is eerily silent now. Vicki Drake, the board's chairwoman, just took her seat so we're ready to begin ...

By the way, Skot Wilson, a local parent and overall thorn in the board's side, just dropped off a copy of a petition gathered by his son with the names of about 40 classmates calling for the resignation of Wise.

Wise Says Good-bye to Principals

Duval County Schools Superintendent Joseph Wise just said good-bye to the system's roughly 160 principals, saying this is likely his last day.
"I can't imagine that after today you will still be working with me," he told them.
In about an hour, the School Board will begin meeting to discuss his contract. Wise's rift with the board has been expanding for several weeks, but for many the last straw was a letter he wrote Friday to board member Brenda Priestly Jackson, his most vocal critic, demanding her resignation and accusing her of living outside of her district.
It is probably a coincidence that today's mandatory principal's meeting falls on the same day the board may terminate Wise. The meetings were called around the same time, but the principals meeting's true mission, which got underway after Wise's remarks, is to address paperwork issues and other concerns raised by teachers.
Wise spoke briefly, urging principals to continue the work they began under him and noting their accomplishments over his two-year tenure.
"There's not a system in America in two years that got the kind of breakthrough that you achieved," he said.
He alluded to his decision to address what he considers ethical issues among board members, saying he feels that is the only way to ultimately address the equity issues in public education. He told the principals to keep moving the system forward and to contact him if they ever need him.
"Don't let this thing go back to idle speed," Wise said. "That would be an absolute tragedy."
Remember to check here for continuous updates. The special board meeting begins at 9:30. Please leave your thoughts in the comments section.

Blogging live all morning,

Looking at the legal options

The Duval County School Board is examining its legal options to part ways with Superintendent Joseph Wise.
Attorneys from the General Counsel's Office will report to the board during a special meeting today solely focused on Wise's contract
Read more about this at http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stories/101607/met_208847828.shtml
Also, Jerry Holland, Duval County's elections supervisor, says it would take a legal challenge to resolve Brenda Priestly Jackson's status. Read more about that at http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stories/101607/met_208808379.shtml
How important are residency rules for politicians? Also, tell us more about what you think about the possibility of Dr. Wise's contract being looked at today.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Should he stay or should he go?

What do you think the Duval County School Board should do Tuesday when members meet to discuss Superintendent Joseph Wise’s contract?

Leave your comments here.

Also, take a look at what Times-Union readers said when we posed them this question on Saturday: http://jacksonville.com/tu-online/stories/101407/met_208750047.shtml.

Peyton joins schools fracas

Jacksonville Mayor Peyton decided Saturday to step into the middle of the rising tensions between the Duval County School Board and Superintendent Joseph Wise, irritating some board members in the process.

Read the full story at http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stories/101407/met_208183630.shtml

Delaware still watching

Check out DelawareOnline's recent story about the controversy. http://www.delawareonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2007710140324

Wise was formally the Christina School District superintendent before coming to Jacksonville in 2005. The Christina School District, which is located in Wilmington, is Delaware's largest.

Superintendent Joseph Wise's letter to Brenda Priestly Jackson

Wise alleges three reasons that Priestly Jackson should step down:

1. “You have attempted to use your position to influence the placement of your husband, an employee of the district, into a position of higher pay and apparent status for which he was not best qualified.”
2. “You attempted to use your position to circumvent the school choice/magnet program by directing staff -- and then me -- to place two of your children in magnet schools for which there are extensive wait lists, and for which you had failed in any manner to comply with rules governing placement.”
3. “You continue to refuse to reimburse the school district for taxpayer funds you expended to subsidize your family vacation.”

Read the full letter at http://jacksonville.com/tu-online/stories/101207/met_207772424.shtml

Wise angers board with call for member's ouster

Here’s the story that kicked off the most recent controversy:

Wise angers board with call for member's ouster

Duval County schools Superintendent Joseph Wise on Friday publicly called for School Board member Brenda Priestly Jackson to resign, claiming that she does not live in the district she represents.

Check out the full story at http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stories/101307/met_207881183.shtml