Turnout For New Superintendent ‘Pitiful’

The firm that is conducting the search for a new Jefferson County Public School Superintendent held its first public meeting Monday, but few parents and teachers attended.

Fewer than 20 people showed up at Gheens Academy to tell the Omaha, Nebraska-based firm McPherson and Jacobson what they want in a superintendent.

Youth advocate Ben Johnson says that the poor attendance makes the community look bad given the heated debate around the school district’s student-assignment plan and boosting test scores.

“There’s no explanation for it and there’s no excuse for it. It was pitiful. It was a very poor showing that in my opinion reflects very poorly on the community. What’s more important than the young people,” he says.

Those who did attend said they wanted someone with experience in an urban school system with a record of closing achievement gaps.

Last year, six Jefferson County high schools were among the 10 lowest-performing public schools in the state. It marked the second year in a row that the school district six of the worst schools in Kentucky that coupled with growing anger over the student-assignment plan.

In November, the school board voted to replace current Superintendent Sheldon Berman, who defended the gains made during his tenure and the need for diversity.

Berman has since been hired for a superintendent’s job in Eugene, Oregon.

The search firm will pick finalists based on their applications and other materials gathered, including community feedback, but Johnson says the attendance reflects poorly on parents and community leaders, especially given the heated debates around busing and boosting test scores.

The decision is too important for people to be complacent, he says.

“If you felt like Dr. Berman couldn’t walk and chew gum, well then you ought to come out and say: ‘Hey make sure we don’t get this kind of person,'” Johnson says. “If you feel like he was the greatest superintendent we had and you’re sorry to see him go, then come out and say: ‘Hey, these are qualities I liked in Dr. Berman and we need to have these qualities in the next superintendent.’ This is not an issue that you can be neutral on.”

A second public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at the VanHoose Education Center.