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Detroit Superintendent Named Urban Superintendent of the Year

  • ORLANDO—The Green-Garner Award, the most prestigious honor in urban education leadership, was presented to Detroit Public Schools Community District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti during the Council of the Great City Schools’ 66th Annual Fall Conference.

    Sponsored by the Council and Scholastic, the global children’s publishing, education, and media company, the top prize is presented each year in memory of Richard R. Green, the first African American chancellor of the New York City school system, and businessman Edward Garner, who served on the Denver school board. Along with the award is a $10,000 college scholarship Vitti will be able to give to a student in the Detroit school system.

    He has been at the helm of Michigan’s largest school system since 2017, and under his leadership, the district has experienced improvement for the first time in decades in the areas of enrollment and financial management; student achievement; student attendance; teacher recruitment, retention, and pay; parental engagement; and student programming, including expansion of the arts and athletics. 

    Upon accepting the award, Vitti noted that he had the privilege of working for three national superintendents of the year winners--Rudy Crew, Alberto Carvalho, and Eric Smith--and that he became a superintendent because of their mentorship. “They empowered me, they supported me, and I wouldn't be receiving this award without them,” he said.   

    The Michigan native, who suffered from undiagnosed dyslexia as a child, also recalled that he became an educator to open doors for students like him and urged the audience of big-city school leaders to continue to be equity warriors and fighters for public education. 

    “If we don't have strong-willed school board members, strong-willed superintendents that believe in children, fight for children, problem solve for children … and just stay focused on what's best for children, then many of our kids don't have that chance,” said Vitti.

    Queen Smith Award  

    Shawn Beightol, a veteran science and chemistry teacher at John A. Ferguson Senior High School in Miami- Dade County Public Schools, was the winner of the Queen Smith Award in Urban Education. The $5,000 award is named in honor of the late vice president of urban programs for Macmillan/McGraw Hill Publishing Company.

    Beightol has served the students of Miami-Dade County for nearly three decades, igniting a passion for science, technology, chemistry, and outdoor educational programming for thousands of children—particularly among at risk children. 

    Urban Impact Award  

    This year, the Council of the Great City Colleges of Education, an affiliate group of deans working with urban school leaders, presented the Dr. Shirley Schwartz Urban Impact Award to two partnerships.

    Florida’s Orange County Public Schools and the University of Central Florida were honored for establishing the Comprehensive Urban Teacher Pipeline. University faculty work with Orange County school district leaders, instructional coaches, and teachers to develop innovative pathways for both preparing and retaining educators to teach in Central Florida’s urban schools, with a focus on the most vulnerable student populations. And Cleveland State University and the Cleveland Metropolitan School District were honored for the Cleveland Teaching Fellowship program, which gives qualified candidates student teaching experience with the Cleveland school system, with many of the participants remaining with the schools after graduation.