The Berger Era Begins

July 06, 1992

Stuart D. Berger, the new Baltimore County school superintendent, brings with him a management style described as "intimidating," "iron-fisted" and "demanding." And those are quotes from someone who thinks well of the guy.

A former superintendent in North Olmsted, Ohio, Wichita, Kans., and Frederick County, Md., Dr. Berger does not come to Towson with a collection of rosy press clippings. According to reports, he doesn't hesitate to remove teachers he feels are not doing their jobs. He is said to have locked horns with his school boards, on one occasion taking a two-week leave to allow an unfraying of nerves. That was in Frederick, where Dr. Berger also sued a local newspaper over a six-paragraph item about a routine school matter.

No wonder many Baltimore County educators are antsy about the arrival of the new boss.

The 47-year-old Ohio native succeeded Robert Y. Dubel on July 1, though Dr. Berger was shaking things up before his first official day in the job. In early June, he took the initial step in his plan to decentralize school operations when he designated nearly 20 administrators for "on-site" jobs as principals, assistant principals and teachers.

The school system official who told administrators of their transfers said it was the hardest task of his 32 years in the profession. Other educators will likely endure similar hardships as Dr. Berger institutes more changes in the months ahead.

Not everyone in the 90,000-student system is dreading the Berger era. Many people, including the school board that hired him, realize that the system needs new energy and fresh thinking. The new superintendent seems to have plenty of both. He is expected to infuse the system with a heightened sensitivity to the growing minority enrollment of the county schools. As he did in Wichita, Dr. Berger will probably boost the number of early childhood centers in Baltimore County. And, as noted above, he wants to take staffers from a top-heavy administration and put them in the schools, where he believes they will do more good.

Dr. Berger himself might admit that his public relations skills don't rate high marks. He reportedly has said he hopes to work on that problem. But many observers agree that he merits praise for caring about the children in his charge, from the high achievers to those who require extra attention. He seems especially concerned about the latter group, which promises to grow numerically as the demographics of the county and its school system continue to transform in the coming years.

Expect Stuart Berger to make the school system shift with the times and, in the process, to create a system very different from the one he inherits. He might not be a paragon of diplomacy, but he promises to be a catalyst for change.

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