Dr. Christopher Bernier named next Superintendent of Duval schools

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Dr. Christopher Bernier is now officially Duval County Public Schools’ next Superintendent.


Bernier secured unanimous support from school board members Thursday morning.

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Bernier’s Florida experience was a top selling point, along with his experience dealing with many of the same issues currently facing Duval County Public Schools.

Bernier previously served as Superintendent of Lee county Public Schools in Southwest Florida.

Board members noted the district’s similar size and demographics to Duval County Public Schools.

Additionally, they were impressed with Bernier’s ability to rebuild after Hurricane Ian ravaged his county in 2022.

“This is an amazing opportunity and a chance to continue to grow as a Superintendent and do the best work possible on behalf of the students in this community,” said Bernier.

ORIGINAL STORY: Duval County School Board votes 7-0 to select Christopher Bernier as next DCPS superintendent

He earned the support of Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz during the search process and Bernier argued relationships like that one will help him move the district forward.

“We’re going to have to operate politically in this climate in order to attain what’s in the best interest of our children,” said Bernier.

With the district facing the daunting decision of closing 30 public schools, Bernier said it will be his mission to ensure the community has input and understands why a tough decision may go one way or the other.

“They may not necessarily agree, but it’s important for people to understand how difficult decisions are made within a school district,” said Bernier.

Bernier noted he’s still diving into the details of the district’s transportation issues, as his previous district did not contract with outside busing companies.

“I have been working diligently since the interview to get even more up to speed on that,” said Bernier.

Responding to recent accusations of the district mishandling incidents of alleged misconduct among school staff, Bernier made a commitment to hold district employee at all levels accountable.

RELATED: Duval School Board narrows field to two finalists in search for next superintendent

“There’s an expectation for all employees who work with students to be above reproach in their personal and private behavior,” said Bernier.

Duval’s school board may have been unanimous in its decision to hire Dr. Christopher Bernier as the district’s new Superintendent, but board members noted the search process exposed deep divides among the public.

“This has been another example of a hard thing our board has had to do and it has just really amplified that we have a lot of disunity in our community,” said Board Member Cindy Pearson (District 3).

“The sad reality is that we are a divided community,” said Board Member Warren Jones (District 5).

Though the nine people who showed up for public comment were all unanimously in support of Bernier, their comments expressing concerns about the other finalist, Dr. Daniel Smith, highlighted some of those cultural political divides.

“Right now, there are a lot of ideas of biological males to compete in the female sports or go to the female bathroom. I don’t feel safe for this,” said Duval County parent Dr. Jack Haung.

“I pray and hope that when you all consider the next Superintendent that it won’t be someone with propaganda or agendas that are taking place in California and Virginia,” said Duval resident Michelle Matisoo.

RELATED: ‘No other options:’ Falling traditional school enrollment forces DCPS to cut staff

On Bernier’s side, concerns were raised during the search process about a racial discrimination lawsuit filed in his previous district just before he left that job.

There were also questions raised about his connections with state leaders.

“I was concerned about his relationships with Tallahassee,” said Warren.

Bernier said he recognizes the need to bridge those divides in his new role.

“We’ve got to find a way to bring our community together around what’s in the best interest of our children. Our students and our kids are our primary responsibility and there are great things going on in Duval,” said Bernier.

Board Chair Darryl Willie (District 4) argued it will also be the board’s responsibility to ensure partisanship doesn’t cause further divides moving forward.

“It’s time to sort of make sure when they come in we hold them to that high level of excellence and standard that we know is capable here in Duval County,” said Willie.

Bernier and the school board will now begin the process of negotiating a final contract.

Initially expected to start July 1st, board members suggested he may come in as early as mid-June to help speed up the transition.

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