January 28, 2005

Commentary

Why is it so Hard to say Goodbye?

By Ernest McCray

“Bersin’s position hangs in balance” is the title of a newspaper article I just read as I relaxed at my crib. But I have to ask: Why? Why should it be hard to say goodbye to a school superintendent who promised us a “World Class” school system and delivered one that isn’t even “County Class.”

And this man has the nerve to say, regarding the new board of education: “The civility, the dialogues and indepth discussions have added immeasurably to the district. The absence of that in the past was clearly a handicap.”

Well, duh. And who, might I ask, set the tone for the negativity that plagued the past board? Alan Bersin, himself. He created in our school system the most unhealthy so-called learning environment imaginable.

He created an atmosphere from the moment he took control (and control is, indeed, what he took) where no questions are asked or answered, where unreasonable demands are fortified with warnings like: “No excuses. No exceptions.My way or the highway.”

Hey, a “World Class” school system, whatever that is, might be cool but all we’ve ever needed is one that respects learning, one that’s relevant, one where children learn to think critically, one where people learn to get along, to listen to each other, to help each other so that they can craft a hopeful world.

Alan Bersin looked at shared decision making, a hallmark of a democracy, with the disdain one would look at a ketchup stain on one’s silk white suit.

“Civility” under his leadership has been a lost art.

“Indepth discussions,” to this man, has meant following his orders.

Now as to the board of education’s deliberations regarding the superintendent’s future, board president, Luis Acle, says: “This is a constructive, active discussion - open and lively.”

Well, what could be more “constructive” than handing Alan Bersin a pink slip and showing him the door? If done right, it would be carried out after a very ”active, open, and lively” discussion devoted to getting everybody to say “You’re fired! on cue. That’s what the board needs to do. And the sooner the better. Our children deserve better.

Mr McCray is a retired city school’s principal.

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