Our new superintendent has a learning disability.
Dr. Nikolai Vitti, Detroit Public Schools Community District’s (DPSCD) new superintendent has a master’s degree from Wake Forest University along with a master’s and a doctorate from Harvard University. And he accomplished all that with dyslexia which wasn’t diagnosed until he was in college.
The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity at Yale University says dyslexics are slow readers because they have trouble matching letters and letter combinations with the sounds they make. The condition has no connection to overall intelligence.
Vitti talked about his career decisions in an interview with DPSCD student journalists.
“I realized I wanted to use my education as a way to open up other doors for students like me that typically wouldn’t get the chance that I got,” Vitti said.
Vitti has more than 15 years of experience in education as a teacher, principal, district administrator and superintendent, and he said in an email that understands how school structures don’t always work in the best interest of children.
“I believe my struggles with dyslexia provided me with the experience to empathize with students who struggle in school,” Vitti said. “It also helped me think more strategically about how districts and schools can better support struggling readers.”
US Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 15% of all people to have dyslexia. The numbers vary, but many sources say that dyslexia is often not recognized in schools.
Dawan Williams, lead special education teacher at Mumford HS said with training to give teachers a better understanding of dyslexia, they would be able to provide more strategies and resources to help those students achieve success in the classroom.
“There are students who are not identified and whose needs are not being met,” Williams said.
In Vitti’s previous position as superintendent of Duval County Public Schools in Florida, he started a special school for students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia, and he would like to do something like that for DPSCD, as well.