Berger's Smart Move

June 01, 1993

No, says Baltimore County School Superintendent Stuart Berger. His idea of forming committees of parents, students and community leaders to interview candidates for top school jobs did not come in response to critics who have charged him with TTC running a secretive education department.

Fine. We'll buy that. If he insists.

But after all the flak Dr. Berger has caught from parents and even some of his own staffers for changing the school system too much too fast, why wouldn't he claim that the new interview process is his way of reaching out to people who feel they've been left out of his make-over of the system?

Because someone as independent and iconoclastic as Stuart Berger isn't likely to make such an admission, that's why. At least not in public or on the record.

His explanation is that the method worked well when he was in charge of the North Olmsted, Ohio, schools. That he's bringing it out again now, in the wake of nasty attacks from his detractors, is mere coincidence. So he would say.

Whatever his motives, Dr. Berger should be commended for his interview-by-committee plan, in which 120 people screened 90 candidates for 17 positions one weekend last month. The superintendent and his staff will grill the finalists and, from among them, make the ultimate selections.

This is a smart political move on Dr. Berger's part. By giving Baltimore County residents a greater say in who runs the public schools, he quiets his critics. If people happen to complain about these seven new administrators or 10 new principals in the future, then Dr. Berger would at least have the satisfying option of replying, "Hey, I couldn't have done it without your help!"

The new process also appears to offer qualified candidates a better shot at a high-ranking post than they would have had during the tenure of the previous superintendent, Dr. Robert Dubel. In past years, job-seekers had to negotiate a frustrating process that moved slowly, was strewn with hurdles and often led to a dead end.

Credit Dr. Dubel, though, for possessing the diplomatic and administrative skills to keep people happy, from parents to the educators under him. As for Stuart Berger in his first year as Dr. Dubel's successor, his main shortcoming has been a tendency to rub many folks the wrong way. This unusual interview process should help to alter that contrary image. Just don't expect him to admit he planned it that way.

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