Tulare Joint Union High School District superintendent to retire

  • January 24, 2011

A Fisher 150 record player stands out on the northside of Howard Berger's office in the Tulare Joint Union High School District building.

Berger, the district superintendent, uses it to play background music in his office. The speakers still work.

Berger bought the 43-year-old record player with his first paycheck from the district in 1968, working as a social studies teacher at Tulare Union High School. "The Beatles," "The Mamas and the Papas" and "The Rolling Stones" were likely played through its sound system.

"I'm too cheap to buy a new one," Berger joked.

Berger will pack up his 43-year-old record player in June. He is retiring after about more than four-decades working in education in Tulare, most recently four at the helm of the district.

"After forty-three years, you never know what going to happen next week, next year," Berger said when addressing why he retired.

Berger came to the district after graduating from what was then California State University, Hayward, with a bachelor's degree in social studies.

The university is currently named California State University, East Bay.

The principal of Tulare Union at that time, Bill Nye, was conducting interviews at East Bay, Berger said.

"I was very impressed by Mr. Nye and his dedication to the school," Berger said. "I thought, 'OK, I'll give it a year."

When he was hired as a social studies teacher in 1968, being superintendent was the furthest thing on Berger's mind.

"I didn't know what a superintendent did. I was trying to find out what a teacher did," he said.

Berger didn't expect to be in Tulare more than a year, he said, but it was the community spirit in part that made him decide to stay.

"I thought it was a very positive community," Berger said. "I was really impressed by the schools, the parents and the students."

Like the music played through the Fisher record player, education has seen its changes.

Berger has seen drastic changes to education since he started at Tulare Union. There were no state-mandated standards, he said.

A Fisher 150 record player stands out on the northside of Howard Berger's office in the Tulare Joint Union High School District building.

Berger, the district superintendent, uses it to play background music in his office. The speakers still work.

Berger bought the 43-year-old record player with his first paycheck from the district in 1968, working as a social studies teacher at Tulare Union High School. "The Beatles," "The Mamas and the Papas" and "The Rolling Stones" were likely played through its sound system.

"I'm too cheap to buy a new one," Berger joked.

Berger will pack up his 43-year-old record player in June. He is retiring after about more than four-decades working in education in Tulare, most recently four at the helm of the district.

"After forty-three years, you never know what going to happen next week, next year," Berger said when addressing why he retired.

Berger came to the district after graduating from what was then California State University, Hayward, with a bachelor's degree in social studies.

The university is currently named California State University, East Bay.

The principal of Tulare Union at that time, Bill Nye, was conducting interviews at East Bay, Berger said.

"I was very impressed by Mr. Nye and his dedication to the school," Berger said. "I thought, 'OK, I'll give it a year."

When he was hired as a social studies teacher in 1968, being superintendent was the furthest thing on Berger's mind.

"I didn't know what a superintendent did. I was trying to find out what a teacher did," he said.

Berger didn't expect to be in Tulare more than a year, he said, but it was the community spirit in part that made him decide to stay.

"I thought it was a very positive community," Berger said. "I was really impressed by the schools, the parents and the students."

Like the music played through the Fisher record player, education has seen its changes.

Berger has seen drastic changes to education since he started at Tulare Union. There were no state-mandated standards, he said.

"When I first started they gave me a book and a room and said see you in June," Berger said.

Today there are numerous state standards schools must follow.

Except for the 1972-73 academic year when Berger taught at Cherry Avenue Middle School, his career was with the high school district. He was again a social studies teacher at Tulare Union from 1973, until becoming the district's staff development coordinator in 1984. He was promoted to assistant principal at Tulare Western High School in 1986.

Berger was principal of Tulare Union from 1989 until 2006, when he was hired as superintendent.

While serving as principal at Tulare Union, Berger saw two state legislative bills written in an attempt to make the school change its "Redskin" mascot, including the now defeated California Racial Mascot Act.

"That was an interesting experience for everyone, and I tried to make that as much of a learning experience [for students] as I could," Berger said. "It needed to be a learning experience for them to see both sides of the issue."

Berger's opinion then was that it should be a community issue as to whether or not the mascot was appropriate or offensive.

"It wasn't something Sacramento should be dealing with," he said.

Berger became superintendent in 2006.

His main accomplishment while superintendent, he said, was the opening of Mission Oak High School, which will have its first graduating class this year. It also helped alleviate the overcrowding at Tulare Western.

Although he has been in administration since 1984, Berger acknowledges that he misses teaching.

"I think in my whole career the experience I've enjoyed the most was teaching," Berger said. "You see immediately the impact you've had."

Cathy Mederos, the district's board of education president, said Berger formally announced his retirement at the district's recent school board meeting.

"We knew this day would come, when he would decide to take a step into the retirement world, so it didn't come as to a complete surprise to us," Mederos said.

The board is in the preliminary stages of finding Berger's replacement. Mederos expects the board will look at candidates from in and outside the district.

"I think Howard has done a great job," Mederos said. "On behalf of the board we'd like to thank Howard for his many years of service."

Diane Backman,Tulare Joint Union High School District teachers association president, said she hopes the school board will include teachers' input in the superintendent search.

Backman is happy for Berger, she said.

"I think he's done a great service for our district. I've enjoyed working with him, and I hope he has a great retirement," Backman said.

Berger said 2011 was the right time to retire.

"The district is in good hands," Berger said.

He plans to get into consulting in his retirement and travel the country, he said.

And the record player?

"I may still find a use for it somewhere," he said.

Read article: http://www.visaliatimesdelta.com/article/20110122/NEWS01/101220322/Tulare-Joint-Union-High-School-District-superintendent-to-retire

  • Print This Page
  • Bookmark and Share