Bill Glasheen wrote:
The superintendent of schools for Jefferson County here (around Louisville) just got his walking papers. Why? He came in 4 years ago from New England and inexplicably started a busing program a la 1970s style in an attempt to mix up the socioeconomic classes. The courts slapped his hand, and he kept doing it anyway with a slight twist on the theme to get around their ruling via a technicality. (Meanwhile, private schools in this region are booming. Ponder that dynamic for a bit.) Then the test scores for all Jefferson County schools came out, and it was obvious that he wasn't doing his job of seeing that the kids were learning their fundamentals. In a meeting of the school board last night, they pulled a Donald Trump. They told him "You're fired!"
Sorry Bill, but the JCPS busing program is 70s style because that is when it started. It began on September 4, 1975 by court order to "mix up the socioeconomic classes", not 4 years ago by the current superintendent. If Berman's contract is not being renewed because of a belief he started busing, that was one heck of a successful dis-information campaign! Likewise private schools have been booming there for the past 35 years as well. Check out Hurt fades, hope survives
and similar articles for more on the history of busing in Jefferson County. I was in that school system at the time busing started and remember those events very well: The heated rallies and protests (some of which I experienced first hand), my parents keeping me out of school the first week of the 1975-76 school year in protest, and we ultimately moved out of Jefferson County to Hardin County the following summer...a traumatic event for a 10-year old being forced to leave friends he'd known for as long as he could remember.
The 1975 busing plan remained in place unchanged until 2007 when the U.S. Supreme Court put restrictions on the use of race to decide school assignments, a class-action ruling aimed not just at JCPS but other busing districts around the country as well. So Superintendent Berman proposed a restructuring plan to comply with the court rulings, which the JCPS Board of Education approved by the way. That change took effect last year for the elementary schools and will take effect next year for the middle and high schools.
What's interesting is that the exact same JCPS Board of Education that voted last night to not renew Berman's contract when it expires in June, gave him a rather positive review this past July, as shown in the Courier-Journal article this morning
The board had issued a full evaluation of Berman in July. At the time, board members said they felt he had done a good job enhancing classroom instruction, embracing innovation and promoting policies that support student growth, but he needed to refocus his goals to ensure all students achieved their full potential.
Board members said then that it was “unacceptable to continue to have some of the lowest-performing schools in the state,” referring to the six schools that were named among the 10 lowest-performing schools in Kentucky in 2009.
They also noted that the new elementary student assignment plan “met a rocky beginning” when it was implemented at the start of the 2009-10 school year.
Why the sudden re-evaluation only four months later, when his contract renewal evaluation was not supposed to be until January?
Since that evaluation, six more Jefferson County schools were identified as being among the lowest-performing in the state for 2010.
The district also began facing a push for a return to neighborhood schools, including a proposed state law that would allow them, after mistakes and confusion on the first day of school resulted in hundreds of students spending extra hours on buses, with some not getting home until 9 p.m.
So he is being let go because of the under-performing schools and because he did not do a good job of smoothing over public concerns about the Board-approved new school assignment plan...can we say "scapegoat"?
It's important to note that Berman came from a much smaller school district before JCPS, which is the 28th largest school district in the country, and there has always been concerns about his lack of experience. The Board certainly put emphasis last night on that being the factor for his contract not being renewed:
“The most important duty of the (school board) is to choose and support a superintendent who will lead a successful school system that prepares all students for post-secondary education and careers,” board Chairwoman Debbie Wesslund said in a statement read during the public portion of the meeting.
“We reviewed past evaluations of the superintendent, student performance progress under his leadership, as well as management and operations issues,” she said. “The board has determined that it will not renew his contract.”
Wesslund said Berman didn't seem to have a sense of urgency when it came to student performance.
“We have been concerned with the stagnant growth in the key areas of reading and math,” she said. “As a board, we wish to refocus our energies on student achievement on every level with an emphasis on making substantial progress in student performance.”
Sounds a bit wishy-washy, and last night's meeting is not without controversy itself. Given that 4 of the 7 Board members just won re-election earlier this month (with the other 3 not being up for re-election this year), there does not seem to be a big push for leadership change among voters, so why the Board's rush? Even the Jefferson County Teachers Association expressed concern about that last night:
Royce Whitman, vice president of the Jefferson County Teachers Association, said that while her organization had not taken a position on whether Berman's contract should be renewed, she questioned the board's timing, saying the public should have been given much more notice.
“Our organization recognizes that this is one of the most critical decisions facing not just the school board, but the entire community,” Whitman said. “A decision of this nature should only be made after ample time for community reflection, community dialogue and community input.”
Only two people addressed the board about Berman at last-night's meeting, the Teacher's Association representative quoted above and one other, and neither spoke negatively of Berman. There certainly was no public outcry expressed for his removal.
At any rate, with the current superintendent not coming back next year the Board is going to scrap its socially-invasive revised busing plan, right?
Wesslund said the board is committed to maintaining diversity in Jefferson County Public Schools. “We appreciate Dr. Berman's commitment to preserving our value of diversity and inclusion within all schools and for his work at designing a plan to meet that goal,” she said. “We embrace this value, but recognize we need to take a deep look at this current plan and make changes, if necessary, to meet families' concerns and to shore up community support for our assignment plan.”
I guess not. But in their defense, note the comment above that it would apparently take a state law to even allow Jefferson County to return to the pre-busing neighborhood schools of 35+ years ago.
So Bill, while there might be an example somewhere in all this for the point you are trying to make, Berman's contract not being renewed does not seem to be it. Just the opposite in fact, based on the comments it seems if he had had been more effective in government's role in the social issue of quality education his contract might have been extended.