Taking Berger to Task

September 02, 1993

A report from the task force examining the actions of embattled Baltimore County Superintendent Stuart Berger did not substantiate an allegation that he demoted principals for reasons of age discrimination or out of retribution. It did, though, conclude that his communication with parents and school personnel had been abysmal.

That's why the school board-appointed panel called for creation of two ombudsmen to resolve conflicts with the public. It also urged Dr. Berger's staff to take written reviews of staff more seriously instead of tossing them in the trash and demoting people solely on anecdotal impressions. A superintendent must be able to appoint his own team, but workers also should be advised if their work is sub-par and given a chance to improve.

As for the controversial plan to place more special education students in regular classrooms, the task force said the Berger administration overreached in rushing ahead with these changes. Even the State Department of Education, following its own review, felt the county didn't fulfill its requirement of working with the community. Dr. Berger moved too far too fast in Baltimore County. He decries educationese and top-down management that insulates itself from the grassroots, but he seems to have been guilty of these very sins.

The main fault we find with the task force product was the gratuitous letter by one of its members, retired Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge James Sfekas. Not satisfied that his group produced a lengthy, pointedly critical report of Dr. Berger's administration, Judge Sfekas opined that firing the superintendent would be the only solution. The task force calls for a "healing process," yet the judge demands dismissal. The aim should be to end the community uproar, not fan emotional passions of critics.

The judge, the Teachers Association of Baltimore County and talk radio provocateurs who don't even live in the county want Dr. Berger's head. But none of them gives any answers on how the system should achieve its long-range goals in the face of the county's increasing urban problems and the loss of the middle class to more distant suburbs. If only this divisive energy could be redirected to increase involvement in the schools, Baltimore County would be much better off.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.