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."
Despite the state's and county's current financial problems, Dr. Berger added that he is confident of his ability to make improvements.
Dr. Berger will succeed Robert Y. Dubel, who leaves his post June 30 after 16 years.
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.
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.