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Former Lee school superintendent Bernier now heads Duval schools

Lee County School District Superintendent Christopher Bernier addresses a crowd of more than 100 parents, staff, and community members at the first of three town hall-style events at Caloosa Elementary in Cape Coral on Sept. 1.
John Davis, WGCU
Former Lee County School District Superintendent Christopher Bernier has been hired as superintendent of Duval County Schools.

Dr. Christopher S. Bernier, who led Lee County schools — the state's 9th largest school district — for nearly two years, is now head of Duval County schools,the state's sixth largest district.

Bernier was named Duval superintendent Thursday night by the Duval County School Board.

"I would like to make a motion that the school board offer the position of Superintendent to doctor Christopher Bernier," board member April Carney proposed after discussion ended on the selection process.

The board then unanimously approved the motion and authorized contract negotiations. The new superintendent begins work July 1.

Bernier, who was sworn in as Lee County's superintendent in May 2022, vacated his position effective April 9, months ahead of his expected end date.

In November 2022, 62 percent of Lee County voters decided to no longer have the school boards appoint the superintendent as they have done since the early 1970s. The vote was in favor to make the position partisan and elected.

This past fall Bernier declined filing paperwork to seek the soon-to-be elected seat and said partisan-type positions were never his aspiration for his academic career. This winter, Bernier was a finalist for an appointed superintendent position in Omaha, but he did not get the job.

Bernier made $275,400 a year in Lee County. Under the contract separation agreement approved by the Lee board in April, he will continue to get paid for the next 18 months and serve in an advisory role as needed.

Jacksonville Today reported Thursday that the Duval vote marked the end of a yearlong search. Bernier replaces Diana Greene, who announced her early retirement last May.

Daniel Smith, chief of staff at Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia, was the other finalist.

Bernier was the board’s top pick because they see him as someone who is well-equipped to navigate Florida’s complex and sometimes politically charged education system.

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