Background on Sheldon Berman-VHS Issues

For whatever reason, Richard Day has decided to take issue with our inquiry into Sheldon Berman, the new-ish superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools. It’s like he’s forgotten that our style is to slowly release information we uncover during an investigation – never all at once. Reference: More than a year of Robert Felner reporting. Reporting that was so groundbreaking that WHAS11 claimed it as its own work and won major national awards without any due credit being given.

Anyway, we need to elaborate a bit.

Richard criticized a comment from a reader that insinuated Sarah Haavind had connections to VHS, the Massachusetts organization with which JCPS recently entered into a contract. He wrote, “#1: Speculation that one of the individuals may have had connections to VHS, a Massachusetts virtual high school company that recently contracted with JCPS is unconfirmed. KSN&C spoke to VHS CEO Liz Pape who said the individual in question has had absolutely no connection to the company and never gained a penny’s worth of consideration from the company.”

Here are the facts:

Sarah Haavind is the wife of Sheldon Berman. They’re currently in the midst of divorce proceedings. She works as an assistant professor at the Lesley University School of Education in Massachusetts. Her entire professional career has involved design and course framework for online/distance-learning courses. Since 1996 she’s also worked to encourage instructors who want to move their teaching from the classroom to the internet through her work at the Concord Consortium. She’s said so in her own personal blog, which is located here.

Concord Consortium is an umbrella research and development organization that oversees a number of projects. Including, guess what? VHS. That is explained here.

You’ll want to read the rest after the jump…

And if you dig back several years, you’ll find the company used to be called… wait for it… Concord VHS.

In 1997, the Concord Consortium started two projects: INTEC and VHS. They were highlighted in the 1997 fall newsletter of the Concord Consortium, which you can read by clicking here.

Sarah Haavind also wrote her 2006 dissertation about none other than VHS. And she co-wrote a book published in 2000, Facilitating Online Learning: Effective Strategies for Moderators, with her fellow instructional designers. In the publisher’s notes about Haavind, it says she designs and teaches online courses for the Consortium, including INTEC netcourses.

Now, we don’t know if Haavind has ever worked directly for VHS. It’s possible all of her work with Concord Consortium was on a voluntary basis and she didn’t make a dime. But after a few searches on the fancy Google machine, you’re quickly able to determine that she is no less than a groundbreaker in terms of distance-learning education and instructional design.

Back to Richard Day. We take issue with his comments from VHS CEO Liz Pape who said that Haavind, “has had absolutely no connection to the company.” Of course she has a connection to the company. She’s a respected educator and a designer of distance-learning educational courses. She works for Concord to design those courses. And Concord oversees VHS.

Who knows if she’ll receive any work through the new JCPS contracts or if her work, research or instructional designs will be used to develop VHS content? We don’t. But there’s certainly no denying everything we’ve reported and everything commenters have said on this website is backed up.

We’re not on a Ken Herndon-style witch hunt and we back up what we have to say.