One-on-One: Berman on moving on, feelings about JCPS

By Matt McCutcheon - e-mail | bio | facebook

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – The good-byes are beginning. After weeks of it being a possibility, it is now official:  the Superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools has a new job and is moving away from the Derby City.

Superintendent Doctor Sheldon Berman came to Louisville for the 2007-2008 school year, but the 2010-2011 school year may have been his – and the district's – most turbulent.

It all started on the very first day of school, when some students didn't get home until 9:00 p.m.; continued again with news that JCPS has some of the worst performing schools in the Commonwealth. The controversial student assignment plan played out in a courtroom -- and in Frankfort.

In the middle of the school year, the school board basically fired Dr. Berman, then considered taking it back; but now there's no turning back:  Berman will be gone in about three months.

"It's very sad to leave Louisville," Dr. Berman said.

Doctor Berman is trading the Derby City for Eugene, Oregon where he'll lead a much smaller school district. The day after the dust settled from the official word, WAVE 3 News talked to him about moving on.

When asked if it was a difficult decision, Berman said, "Let's just say it's always hard to move from a place where you feel a strong commitment and strong sense of connection, so it's always challenging."

The JCPS board considered a change of heart – and possibly a re-vote to keep Berman here after his contract runs out, but before that could be put on the table, he made that impossible by saying he was done here after a 3-year run he calls a success.

"The changes that we've put in place have been extraordinary, everything from reducing class size to nurses in school to restructuring practically every curriculum area and restructuring high schools and career themes," Dr. Berman said.

When asked what he's least proud of here, he said, "Well, I think my saddest moment will be packing up and moving so that'll be one."

"I don't know if people realize how much of a gift this school system is to the city," Dr. Berman said.

But some students and parents wish part of that gift came with a return policy. A rocky school year included more controversy and legal battles with the student assignment plan, test scores, and busing.

While Dr. Berman says he'll focus on the good, like restructuring schools and shrinking class sizes; but will he have good thoughts about his time at JCPS?

"We've had some bumps along the road. You know you can't hold on to those things; you just have to move on and have to know that people do what they do for whatever reason and they may have made the wrong judgment, but that's too late to have regrets," Dr. Berman said.

No matter the feelings, Dr. Berman believes JCPS will thrive without his leadership.

"I think they're going to see tests and scores go up over time, I think that they'll see the diversity plan we put in work," Dr. Berman said.

His last day is technically June 30, unless he chooses to pad out his time here with vacation and personal days.

"I'll do the best to create a transition here," Dr. Berman said.

He starts in Eugene on July 1, and will be consulted on their 2011-2012 school year.

School board members there call Berman a "visionary educational leader," and say he'll be an excellent fit for Eugene.

Berman will make trips before July 1 to help with the budget process.

JCPS Board members voted 5-2 in November of 2010 not to renew his contract. It expires on June 30.  A national search for his replacement is underway.

Copyright 2011 WAVE News. All rights reserved.