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School district fires popular principal

Lincoln High School's Jay Berns will finish school year
By: Steve Archer, Reporter
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Jay Berns, the Lincoln High School principal the last seven years, has been effectively fired by the Western Placer Unified School District’s board of directors who voted not to renew his contract for the 2018-2019 school year.

Berns, a popular figure on the campus and within the Lincoln community, said Friday he was “shocked and surprised” when he learned of the board’s decision earlier this year. Berns said he is looking for another principal job outside of the Western Placer Unified School District.

“I have had the best seven years here,” Berns said. “I am grateful, thankful and want the school to continue in the same direction. There are so many good things going on here at the high school and in the community and it is going to continue to move forward.”

“Hopefully, I will be finalizing a principal position for next year in the next few weeks,” Berns added. “I want to stay in touch with and know how my kids are doing: college, military, jobs, I love to hear all of that stuff. We’re family and that won’t change.”

Western Placer Unified School District Superintendent Scott Leaman said April 19 that the Lincoln High School staff was informed of the board’s decision to release Berns on April 13. Leaman said the personnel decision was made during a board meeting’s closed session and he could not discuss the specifics or even at which meeting the decision was made.

“Jay has served the Lincoln High School community valiantly for seven years and oversaw many improvements at the site,” Leaman said. “We know he will be missed.”

Leaman added that “the district is in the process of actively seeking the next principal for Lincoln High School.”

“We all hope the best for Jay as he seeks his next role as an agent for change in education,” Leaman said.

Damian Armitage, a Western Placer Unified School Board member, said the vote not to renew Berns’ contract was unanimous.

“It’s not always an easy decision in these kinds of cases,” Armitage said Friday. “There was absolutely no issue of impropriety.”

Telephone calls to the other four school board members – Paul Carras, Brian Haley, Kris Wyatt and Paul Long – were not initially returned.

Berns asked that the community, staff and students continue to support the school and to support the next Lincoln High School principal.

“People have been asking me, ‘What can we do for you?’ I tell them, ‘Be a good student and a good human being,’” Berns said. “I’ve had great times here and I don’t want to tarnish the memories.”

Berns said he believes that “so much of a community can be determined by how much time and energy you spend on kids. Lincoln is turning out great kids.”

“Being a principal is a labor of love,” Berns said. “It’s long nights, early mornings and you don’t do it for the money. It’s exciting to see young men and women grow. There have been a lot of golden moments on this campus.”

“Being a principal is an amazing job but it’s not easy,” Berns added. “It’s worth it at graduation and a student who has struggled makes it. The payback comes when you see your kids in their 30s and 40s and they’re good moms and dads.”

If he had it all to do over again, Berns said, he would.

“This community is doing good things and should be proud,” Berns said. “I love these kids, I care about them and that’s not going to stop. I will visit, go to games, and when I know where I’m landing, I will let everyone know.

“We’re not raising kids to survive the world but to change the world,” Berns added. “Keep changing the world, Fighting Zebras.”