Former JCPS Superintendent Ousted From Yet Another School District

NOTE: This is cross-posted from The ‘Ville Voice because it’s a good look back at ousting a corrupt superintendent.

Remember Sheldon Berman? He’s the former superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools the city sent packing. His time in Louisville was so bad that he barely mentions it:


BERMAN’S CURRENT BIO

He’s also the guy who was closely tied to Robert Felner and was apparently involved in some sort of love triangle with Felner’s underling.

Well…. the Eugene School District in Eugene, Oregon is crazy. They hired him up as if he was magical. And they’ve regretted it ever since, constantly emailing us for help, begging on some occasions, grasping for any way to oust him without taking responsibility for their own decisions.

So get a load of this:

Eugene School Board members allowed Superintendent Sheldon Berman to come up with his own exit plan to avoid the release of a negative performance review, which one board member said could result in his firing, newly obtained records show.

Board members also said in emails last year that if they couldn’t successfully negotiate a departure agreement with Berman, they planned to make his evaluation public and hire an investigator to look into unspecified actions by Berman.

Further, emails between board members show that some members went to great lengths to avoid meeting publicly or even in a closed-door session, in potential violation of state public meetings law. Other emails show that one board member — Beth Gerot — said she would destroy some public records related to Berman’s evaluation. It is a violation of state law for a public official to destroy public records.

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In the course of legal proceedings, the law firm last week sent the newspaper hundreds of unredacted emails regarding Berman’s job performance that The Register-Guard requested last year. The law firm also sent an unredacted copy of Berman’s self-evaluation, in which he gave himself a glowing review.

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Berman announced last June that he was leaving the district after the current school year, citing “family circumstances.” Berman began his job as Eugene superintendent in July 2011.

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The negotiations followed results from an employee survey — conducted by independent consultant Alison Lewis — that found serious concerns with Berman’s job performance. The emails do not shed much light on the nature of those concerns, but do indicate that concerns about Berman led to the resignation of at least two high-level district administrators. The consultant — who interviewed about 20 district employees — found that Berman struggled to manage employees, and some emails suggest employees feared repercussions if they spoke out.

Just like in Louisville! Only this time a school board didn’t have the guts to get rid of him. But the fear of retaliation was definitely there. Same for the Berman efforts to keep his reviews secret.

And this:

Eugene School Board Chairman Jim Torrey said in a statement Wednesday that “now it is time to move forward” and use the revelation of board members’ secret efforts to negotiate an exit plan with Superintendent Sheldon Berman as an “opportunity to reinforce our respect for consistently open and candid board discussions of school district business.”

Torrey’s statement does not specifically defend or repudiate board members’ efforts to shield their concerns about Berman’s job performance, or address newly released emails’ suggestion that some board members may have violated Oregon’s public record and public meetings laws.

The unredacted emails, inadvertently released to The Register-Guard, show that board members negotiated a settlement plan that would allow Berman to avoid a negative job performance review, which one board member said could have led to his firing.

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Berman, meanwhile, said in a statement of his own, also released Wednesday, that he is concerned that the newspaper article may damage the community’s perspective on “the district and the board, as well as me personally.”

“The emails were sent during a time that was particularly challenging for the district, the board and me,” Berman said in his emailed statement. “The year since has been a much more positive and productive time. I think it’s fair to say that the quoted emails and the article don’t begin to describe or reflect the many accomplishments we have achieved.”

Berman added that he has “worked diligently to address concerns raised in my discussions with board members last year.”

“My reasons for leaving Eugene remain largely personal and family ones,” Berman said.

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Eugene Education Association teachers union President Tad Shannon said teachers feel that the board’s responsiveness to teacher concerns has improved in the past year, but teachers did not notice a change in Berman’s performance.

“Shelley (Berman) actually thinks he’s a collaborator and a listener,” Shannon said. “Unfortunately, most staff don’t see it that way.”

JCPS dodged a bullet when we started digging up Shelley’s secret world.

Thank goodness.