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Salinas
July 12, 2024

Parents concerned over supt. departure

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO OF KIM BERMAN

GREENFIELD — At its July 20 regular board meeting, Greenfield Union School District trustees discussed in closed session the “appointment/employment” of a new superintendent. But, questions have been raised about the board’s treatment of former Superintendent Kim Berman and her departure, the lack of transparency in the process used to hire a new superintendent and the lack of communication with the public. 

Before going into closed session, members of the public had an opportunity to address the board.

Beatriz Diaz, first to speak, highlighted Berman’s qualities, stating, “Dr. Berman was great. She had experience. She had a Ph.D. She was more than qualified.”

Diaz asked the board to “be transparent.” She questioned the contract that the board said it had offered Berman and the treatment Berman had received from them. She also questioned why the board had not decided to appoint an interim superintendent, which would have given them more time to make a better selection.

Next, Irene Garcia addressed the board. She, too, complimented Berman, describing her as a “wonderful superintendent.”

“We lost a good person. She did good for our schools,” Garcia said.

Like Diaz, Garcia asked the board to be transparent.

“Don’t be in a hurry to hire someone,” she added.

The board cannot speak publicly about confidential matters, such as personnel issues; nonetheless, Board President Mayra Perez-Diaz was able to clarify that the closed session that evening was not to appoint or hire a new superintendent, but rather to discuss the interviews for the superintendent position that the board would conduct on July 21. Claudette Amaya, senior executive assistant, told the Greenfield News that the superintendent position had been posted on edjoin.org, self-described as “the number one job site” for education positions in the country.

Returning from closed session, Perez-Diaz announced that no action had been taken. Later, under board member reports, Perez-Diaz expressed the board’s appreciation of the GUSD staff. She thanked them for “holding the fort together,” adding that “not just one person is the staff.” She also stated that the board “had a really good pool” of applicants for the superintendent position, which they had discussed during closed session.

Parents who are not happy with Berman leaving question the board’s actions. Rubi Perez, Mary Chapa PTA member for two years, said, “I’m very sad. I have no words to describe how wonderful she was.” Berman had impressed her children because she knew their names.

“She knew who they were. My children were so happy,” Perez said.

Perez also credited Berman for being “open and caring” and giving parents an opportunity to give input. Perez questioned the lack of communication from the board and not keeping a “superintendent that cared.”

“I’m not happy with the board,” she said. “They can’t be changing superintendents every two years.”

Another parent not happy with Berman’s departure is Alicia Martinez, a Mary Chapa member of ELAC, a committee composed of parents whose children are learning English, and of the school’s construction committee. Martinez is also a former Mary Chapa PTA member.

Martinez talked about how approachable Berman was.

“She would listen to us, the parents. She would approach us to talk to us,” Martinez said.

She, like others, question the board’s apparent lack of transparency. She asked, “Who are the applicants?” referring to those applying for the superintendent position.

Martinez had not received any communication from the board as to what had been happening in the school district. 

“Board meetings used to be recorded, but now they’re not,” she said.

Former GUSD trustee Art Salvagno also stated that meetings used to be recorded. According to Salvagno, current minutes are “sketchy and incomplete.”

About Berman, he stated, “She was very competent.”

Wife Margaret Salvagno, also a former GUSD board member, concurred with others, stating, “The community liked her, the parents.”

“It’s questionable whether they (the board) gave her (Berman) support,” she said.

Both former board members question the current trustees’ actions. Art Salvagno stated, “After having served on many boards and councils since 1988, my perception is that the current school board doesn’t adhere to norms, protocols, procedures or the Brown Act.”

“And, there are no apparent consequences,” he added.

  

Board president explains

In a telephone interview, Board President Mayra Perez-Diaz answered questions for the Greenfield News. 

Berman was hired in July 2016 and given a one-year contract. According to Perez-Diaz, experienced superintendents are given longer contracts. Three months into Berman’s post, in November, the board extended the superintendent’s contract to June 2018; after that time, contingent upon a positive evaluation, the board would have been ready to extend the contract three additional years.

Perez-Diaz answers critics who question the board’s support of Berman, stating, “Berman did receive a positive evaluation; that should speak for itself and how the board felt about her. The board had a great professional relationship with her.”

According to Perez-Diaz, the board was surprised that even though Berman was made a “very competitive offer, she declined,” and instead accepted another district offer.

As for questions of transparency, Perez-Diaz stated that the board is “as transparent as it can be,” but that personnel matters are confidential. The board is “responsible for notifying the district staff,” which it did, when positions become vacant. Perez-Diaz added that at the June 2017 meeting, statements were made by the board and Berman, which served to inform the public as well of Berman’s departure. 

“A better career opportunity befitting her experience and credentials” is the reason Berman gave to the board for leaving.

Perez-Diaz emphasized how surprised the board was at Berman’s decision to leave, stating, “Ultimately, the board cannot force people to stay.”

The trustees have followed board policy in the hiring of a new superintendent and have utilized the services of a consultant, according to Perez-Diaz. 

“Mindful of the staff and the public community,” the board has interviewed district staff and taken note of what members of the public have stated during public comments of what they want in a superintendent. After having conducted interviews for a new superintendent, Perez-Diaz said that the board had selected a final candidate and that they are in contract negotiations.

If all goes well, the board expects to be able to make an announcement at its Aug. 3 regular meeting. The board is hopeful that the new superintendent will continue “the great work” that other superintendents have done, will assist with unification and raise student achievement.

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