by David Ball
Just days after voting to fire Duval County Schools Superintendent Joseph Wise, School Board member Tommy Hazouri introduced the Downtown Council of the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce to the man he hopes will assume the job, acting Superintendent Ed Pratt-Dannals.
Downtown Council President Ray Hayes said he had booked Hazouri, also a former state legislator and mayor of Jacksonville, about two weeks ago when the debate between the School Board and Wise was starting to surface.
Hayes said it was a late request by Hazouri to bring along Pratt-Dannals.
“I thought it was important,” said Hazouri. “I know what the community would like to see...they want to meet the new leader of the school system.”
Pratt-Dannals was promoted from deputy superintendent to acting superintendent on Tuesday following a 6-1 vote to fire Wise, who had served as the school district’s top administrator for two years.
The next day, the School Board voted unanimously to pay Wise a full year’s salary of $275,000, plus health and medical benefits, on condition that he wouldn’t sue.
During the bimonthly Friday breakfast meeting, Pratt-Dannals spoke about engaging the business community in education, internships and support of college and career training for Duval County students.
Following the meeting, Hazouri spoke about the decision to fire Wise, his severance payment, and why Pratt-Dannals looks to be the obvious successor.
“He wasn’t what we expected, obviously, when we hired him,” said Hazouri of Wise. Hazouri made the initial motion to fire Wise for cause.
He said the vote and the severance payment were the right ways to end the tumultuous relationship.
“It was a good deal for both of us,” said Hazouri. “We can move on, and he can move out. We didn’t want to get caught up in a court battle.”
Pratt-Dannals said he is looking forward to meeting individually with all the board members and hopefully having the “acting” removed from his title.
“I feel good, and I think we are heading in the right direction,” said Pratt-Dannals. “I know the district, and I think I bring a style that is collaborative and about getting things done.”
Pratt-Dannals is a 31-year employee of the Duval County School system who has served as deputy superintendent since 2005 and was a finalist for the superintendent’s job when Wise was selected.
Hazouri said it won’t take long for the School Board to determine if Pratt-Dannals is the right fit for the position.
“We’ve worked with him too long. If we don’t know him by now, then we’ll never know,” said Hazouri. “We know his style, his leadership abilities and that he’s a good administrator and communicator, and that’s what you need.
“This is the first time in many years we’ve had someone come from within,” he added. “He does understand the system from teaching to leading, and I’m expecting the job becomes permanent.”