Sheldon Berman Has Major Explaining to Do

We’ve been focusing quite a bit on the superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools the past few months. Yesterday we told you about his fancy appearance of impropriety with the Center for Applied Special Technologies.

And today there’s another.

At the April 13th meeting of the JCPS Board of Education meeting (the agenda notes and meeting minutes have mysteriously disappeared from the BOE’s website), an item was passed that apparently received very little attention and slipped right by us.

The Board agreed that JCPS would fully participate with VHS, Inc., a Massachusetts virtual high school company. The company, of course, was founded by none other than Sheldon Berman and he currently sits on the company’s Board of Directors.

What’s interesting, really, is that JCPS already has employees and departments handling virtual high school efforts. JCPS Online, JCPS Virtual Middle and High Schools. So why suddenly start working with Berman’s company, VHS, Inc.?

Here’s a link to that hidden agenda (Warning: PDF Link):

Section V – Consent Calendar and Superintendent’s Report

Subsection H – Approval of the Following Contracts

Part 2 – Contract for Full Participation Between VHS, Inc. and Jefferson County Public Schools
(Contract for participation in the Company’s Virtual High School program, including the provision of online professional development courses and VHS NetCourses for two high schools) [KRS 160.160]

(Here’s a link to KRS 160.160, which is cited on the agenda, if you’re interested.)

Unfortunately for Berman, he could be violating Kentucky law. According to KRS 156.480 (Warning: PDF Link), employees of department or school districts with decision-making authority are prohibited from supplying goods or services for which school funds are expended. And there are penalties. Fines ranging from $50 to $500 and the loss of his job.

Take a look at the code:

(2) No employee of any county or independent school district with decision-making authority over the financial position of the school district shall have any pecuniary interest, either directly or indirectly, in an amount exceeding twenty-five dollars ($25) per year, either at the time of or after his appointment to office, in supplying any goods, services, property, merchandise, or services, except personal services that are in addition to those required by contract for employment, of any nature whatsoever for which school funds are expended. If any person specified in this subsection receives, directly or indirectly, any gift, reward, or promise of reward for his influence in recommending or procuring the use of any goods, services, property, or merchandise of any kind whatsoever for which school funds are expended, he shall upon conviction be fined not less than fifty dollars ($50) nor more than five hundred dollars ($500, and his office or appointment shall without further action be vacant.

Berman may mean no harm, but there is a major appearance of impropriety here. It’s not even the first one we’ve mentioned this week and, if we have time, certainly won’t be the last.

We think Superintendent Berman should consider his actions very carefully.