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Dr. Sheldon Berman Talks Integration, Division, and the Importance of Knowing Our History

An Imperfect Leader: The Superintendents and Leadership Podcast

Release Date: 01/30/2024

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INTRO:  This episode is coming out just as I have returned from co-presenting at a conference hosted by the Coalition of Oregon School Administrators (or COSA). During our presentation, we talked about distinguishing between reform and transformation. Specifically, that reform is usually made up of outside forces telling you what to do, coaching for compliance and using sticks and carrots to get results. Whereas transformation is about establishing your district’s compelling purpose. It relies on cycles of inquiry and peer coaching, and adjusting the goal, when appropriate. It relies on appreciative inquiry, the act at looking at what’s going well and then working to get more of it. My guest today talks about one of the more challenging issues urban school districts face: segregated schools. In this case, in Louisville, KY, the schools were integrated and served as a successful model for the nation. Political interests forced a change, and my guest, Sheldon Berman, was Louisville’s superintendent at the time. In his words, “there was a collective interest in retaining the best integrated school district.” Want to know what happened? Listen to his After Action Review.

In the episode, we also talk about an article Shelley wrote: Taking a Stand Against Divisive Concepts Laws. We talk about how to be a principled leader, one that works to reclaim the narrative, that when you’re defending, you’re losing (advice from one of Shelly’s former board members). 

Thanks for tuning in. I’m Peter Stiepleman and this is An Imperfect Leader

BIO: Dr. Sheldon Berman is a veteran superintendent having served 28 year in Hudson and Andover, MA, Jefferson County (Louisville), KY, and Eugene, OR. During his tenure in Andover, he launched a new strategic plan focused on innovation and authentic learning. This included capstone projects for 5th, 8th and 12th graders, innovation labs and maker spaces, and a high school global network focused on the United Nations sustainability goals. On January 1, 2021, Dr. Berman was appointed AASA’s Lead Superintendent for Social-Emotional Learning.

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