JCPS Board votes not to renew superintendent's contract

By Connie Leonard - bio | email

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - After three and a half years on the job, Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. Sheldon Berman is out.

Monday night, the Jefferson County Board of Education voted 5-to-2 to make a change in leadership.

After finding out the news, Dr. Berman left the meeting without talking to reporters. Board Chair Debbie Wesslund says Berman took the news professionally.

The news was a surprise to some, but certainly many board members believed a change was on the horizon after a very controversial start to the school year, when hundreds of students didn't get home on the first day until 9:00 at night.

The student assignment plan and maybe more importantly, poor performing schools, did Berman in. After nearly three hours in a closed meeting, the board voted not to renew Berman's contract which expires in June.

"I believe the board is unanimous in its desire to focus on student achievement and to ensure we have a leader and management is in place to address that," Wesslund said. "We have many, many challenges in schools that have significant issues, and we have challenges in the achievement gaps so the feeling is we want to address that very aggressively and we want to make sure we have a leader who can manage a very large system around that really important goal."

Board members Steve Imhoff and Linda Duncan were the two votes of support for Berman.

"I don't think this is the appropriate time to make a change," Imhoff said. "The superintendent has only been here three years, and I don't think it's appropriate to make a change. And I think a lot of our data shows we're improving."

JCTA President Brent McKim had this to say about the decision:

"It's unfortunate that the public didn't get to weigh in on the superintendent's extension. We as an organization will look forward to the search for a new leader who understands kids, teaching and learning."

Attorney Ted Gordon continues to lead the charge against the student assignment plan, and he released this statement after learning Berman's contract was not extended: "I am now hopeful that the Jefferson County Board of Education will finally hire a person who has the vision and creativity to improve the education for every student in this school system."

Gordon is currently battling the district, representing 13 families suing over the exact meaning of the words "enroll and attend" according to state law. Back in August, Gordon filed a motion to re-open that case, after it was dismissed, but there's still no ruling on that. A bill is pre-filed in Frankfort that is calling for neighborhood schools.

The NAACP on the other hand is a vocal supporter of the assignment plan, and the diversity it brings to JCPS. It's Louisville President Raoul Cunningham is not happy with Monday night's outcome.

"We are disappointed," said Cunningham, "I think Dr. Berman has done an excellent job in some areas, and one of the areas that were concerned about was student assignment. Now, we were not supporters of his when he chosen to be superintendent, but we think he has done an excellent job in presenting a student assignment plan to the community and we were very supportive of that."

Berman's last day is June 30. The nationwide search for a new leader begins after the holidays in January.

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