Stuart David Berger, the new Baltimore County school superintendent, said he doesn't expect to turn the county's school system upside down when he takes over in July, despite his reputation as a controversial change-maker in school systems where he has served.
Dr. Berger, 47, flew in from Wichita, Kan., yesterday to attend a news conference at which school board President Rosalie Hellman announced his appointment. He told reporters and community members that the situation in Wichita that resulted in a stormy term as school superintendent was "very, very different" from the one he faces in Baltimore County.
The Wichita school board "wanted change and they wanted it very rapidly," he said.
The changes he makes in Baltimore County, he said, will be "within the confines of what the board wants. . . . I certainly have some strong views of things . . . if that's what you define as controversial, then I probably accept it."
Dr. Berger, who served as superintendent in Frederick in the mid-1980s before going to Wichita, said he hoped to learn more about the school system before he discussed specific changes he might implement. But he did say he agreed with the board's concerns over the county's changing demographics and how minority students' needs could be better addressed.
"I would hope . . . that we would be able to find some ways to help youngsters who have not succeeded as much as we would have hoped they would," he said. "I believe every child can learn, but not the same way, and not in the same day."
In spite of the state's and county's current financial problems, Dr. Berger added that he is confident of his ability to make improvements.
Robert Y. Dubel, who spent 16 years at the helm of Baltimore County schools, was unusually quiet at yesterday's meeting, watching from a seat along the side of the room. He leaves his post June 30.
When asked how he felt about the changes in store for a school system that has tended to pick its leaders from within, Dr. Dubel said, "I would be the most disappointed person in the world" if the system did not continue to move forward.
He referred to the book "Future Shock," by American author Alvin Toeffler, saying, "the biggest challenge that we have in life is to cope with the shocking impact of change."
Many school officials and members of county organizations attended yesterday's meeting to get their first look at the man who will head their school system for at least the next four years.
Though many took a "wait-and-see" approach, many also seemed optimistic about the potential for change, particularly among people who have quarreled with the current administration.
Ed Veit, president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, said that Dr. Berger's controversial reputation "doesn't concern me."
"It still boils down to one teacher in a classroom with about 25 kids and that's where the rubber hits the road," he said. "I think the thing to impress upon almost everyone is that this is a great school system, and if he can make it better, we're all pulling for him."
"I certainly like his philosophy that all students can't learn the same in the same setting," said Michael Gimbel, director of the county's Office of Substance Abuse, one of the organizations that submitted suggestions to the school board about characteristics they wanted to see in the new superintendent.
Said Col. James R. Pennington, president of the county chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which has been vocal in its concern about the progress of minority students in the county: "As one change-agent to another, I expect that we shall be able to communicate."
Profile of Stuart David Berger
Family: Married with five children
Education: Cleveland Heights (Ohio) High School, 1960; Western Reserve University, Cleveland, bachelor's degree in English, 1964, master's degree in English, 1968; Kent State University, Kent, Ohio, doctorate in educational administration/guidance, 1975; University of Maryland Law School, Baltimore, graduated with honors, 1987.
Professional experience: English teacher, guidance counselor and administrator at Ohio public schools; director of education for an Ohio state council on alcoholism; superintendent of Lore City, Ohio, school system of 1,300 students, 1975-1977; superintendent of Lorain, Ohio, school system of 1,750 students, 1977-1978; superintendent of North Olmsted, Ohio, school district of 6,500 students, 1978-1981; superintendent of Frederick County, Md., school system of 25,000 students, 1981-1987; superintendent of Wichita, Kan., public school system of almost 50,000 students, 1987-1992; Named Baltimore County superintendent in system of 93,000 students.
VISIONS FOR SCHOOL SYSTEM
* For administration -- "Aggressive, effective master planning to deal with salaries, capital needs . . . and acquisition and application of technology . . . A reordering of priorities to put more emphasis on elementary schools."
* For instruction: "Raise achievement levels of average ability, minority and low-income students . . . Put the best teachers in the schools that need them most . . ."
* For staff relations: "Devise a restructured compensation system so as to attract, develop and retain the highest quality staff."