Jefferson County Board of Education members voted five to two not to renew Dr. Sheldon Berman’s contract as superintendent.
Debbie Wesslund, chairwoman and District Three representative, Joe Hardesty, District Four, Larry Hujo, District Seven, Diane Porter, District One and Carol Haddad, District 6, voted not to renew.
Steve Imhoff, District Two, and Linda Duncan, District Five, voted to renew.
The surprise vote was Hujo, a union leader insiders thought was a likely yes vote.
Berman’s contract as superintendent ends in June 2011.
The vote to oust Berman came after statements of support by an African-American professional group and a representative of the Jefferson County Teachers Association.
Raymond Burse, a Louisville attorney and former president of Kentucky State University, alluded to proposed legislation from Kentucky Republicans to return to neighborhood schools, urging the board not to let outsiders “usurp local discretion.” Burse asked the board to publicly repudiate returning to segregated schools.
Royce Whitman, JCTA vice president, asked the board not to take up Berman’s contract without giving the community more time for input to insure a fair evaluation of the superintendent.
Insiders had told Insider Louisville the key votes were Porter’s and Hardesty’s.
Porter had a less than positive relationship with Berman during her years as a principal, but was pressured by African-American community leaders to support Berman because they worry should Berman leave, the chance to keep a diversified system would go with him. And they do not want a return to segregated neighborhood schools.
Hardesty also had a rocky relationship with Berman, but insiders believed he was willing to set that aside to avoid what may be a contentious search for Berman’s replacement.