In a post about the reaction of the Louisville (Jefferson County) school system to the 2007 Supreme Court decision striking down as unconstitutional its race-based assignment of children to schools, I mentioned Sheldon Berman, the school superintendent. Berman is attempting to maintain his idea of a proper racial balance in the classroom by implementing a complex assignment system that uses “socioeconomic” based assignments in concert with race-based ones to achieve the desired racial result.
Noting that Berman has disrespectfully dissented from Justice Roberts’ plurality opinion in the Louisville case, I asked, “who the hell is Sheldon Berman?”
Several readers have responded. Berman, I am told, is a product of Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, which he completed in the early 1990’s. Before taking his position in Louisville, he was the superintendent of the Hudson Public Schools in Massachusetts, a system with a large proportion of working class students.
During his time in Hudson, Berman put AP programs in place, set up a virtual high school, built a new high school (which settled unevenly in the floodplain where it was built), claimed some success on the traditional high school indicators, built a gigantic home, and ticked off a lot of people, including many of his fellow superintendents around the state. Realizing that he would not become Commissioner of Education in Massachusetts, he applied for the Louisville job.
Berman was one of three applicants, but the other two dropped out. At that point, several civil rights groups, including the NAACP and the Louisville-based Justice Resource Center, called for the Board to restart the search process in part because Berman had no experience with a racially diverse school district. The Board went ahead and appointed Berman anyway.
The NAACP need not have worried. As I noted in my earlier post, Berman’s commitment to imposing his concept of the propoer amount of diversity has caused him to push for a system of busing so extensive that even some of its initial supporters are now having second thoughts.
In going to these lengths, Berman does not appear to be overcompensating for the doubts local civil rights initially expressed about his commitment to diversity. Rather, I am told, Berman has long been a “social justice” fanatic, as befits a product of Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. Indeed, he came to that program from a group called Educators for Social Responsibility.
Faced with an outcry over the effects of mass busing, the Lousville school board is beginning to think that it might be better served in this context by educators for education. Yet one reader, who left Berman’s jurisdicton to escape his “social justice” agenda, tells me that Berman is proceeding full speed ahead, resisting calls to postpone implementation of his convoluted busing scheme at the middle school level.
In response, two state legislators have introduced legislation that would give parents the right to enroll their children in the public school closest to their home, except in cases where the school has academic or skill prerequisites. Berman has responded by claiming that the bill would undermine school choice and jeopardize magnet schools.
The sponsors are willing to tweak the language of the bill to make it clear that that magnet schools will not be affected. But I doubt that Berman is worried about magnet schools; his priority in achieving racial balance. Nor does Berman seem to place a high priority on school choice. As one of the bill’s sponsors says, “Dr. Berman and his bureaucrats want complete control over where a student should be assigned.”
Who, then, is Sheldon Berman? It would appear that he is an arrogant elitist who is dead set on implementing his ideological vision notwithstanding the decision of the Supreme Court, the reservations of his school board, and the desires of parents and students who would like to attend schools close to their homes. He is a representative, par excellence, of the new ruling class.
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