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Emotions remain high as community deals with Berns’ dismissal as principal

By: Brody Fernandez, Lead Reporter for South Placer
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Emotions ran high at Tuesday’s Western Placer Unified School District board meeting with several audience members upset that Lincoln High School Principal Jay Berns’ contract was not being renewed.
Lincoln High staff learned on April 13 that Berns was being released as principal, after this school year ends.

On Tuesday, several parents demanded answers from Superintendent Scott Leaman on why Berns was not the high school’s principal next year. Parent Tera Props also advocated for more parents to attend district board meetings.

“I am very involved with extracurricular activities at Lincoln High, like running Sober Grad Night for the past several years, but showing up to these meetings is the only way to get real answers from Scott (Leaman) in situations like this,” Props said. “I encourage more parents to come out and ask Scott that we not take a step back in our leadership at Lincoln High.”

Another parent, Sandy McFarlin, praised Berns at the school district meeting.

“Jay Berns has brought on so many teachers, coaches and staff members that have made a real difference with our kids, and even though we know there are some things Scott can’t tell us, it hurts to know that we are losing Jay all of the sudden,” McFarlin said.

Lincoln High School senior and the board’s student advisory member, Rebecca Luy, also spoke about Berns.

“It was an honor to have him as a principal for all four years of my high school career,” Luy said. “I know he will make a huge difference wherever he’s going next. I just want him to know that I am so thankful for his tenure at Lincoln High.” 

Parents and staff were informed via a letter Monday from Leaman that Berns will take an administrative position in the Washington Unified School District as a K to eighth-grade principal at Stonegate Elementary School in West Sacramento.

“Jay is heading to a place where he can make a real difference. He’s also getting a raise, so it’s a win-win,” said school board clerk Brian Haley. “This wasn’t a dismissal or termination; he was being reassigned and action had to be taken for not renewing his contract by March 15th, like any teacher or administrator.”

School board Vice-President Paul Long shared a similar sentiment.

“We can not say one bad word about Jay. I can’t imagine anyone who could,” Long said. “The view those kids have of him is just so highly regarded. Jay Berns will absolutely thrive wherever he goes in his career.”
Leaman talked with parents for 90 minutes after the meeting. One question that was prevalent was the direction moving forward.

“I just want to say that Jay’s strength is building relationships and that’s no secret,” Leaman said.

In regard to the vote not to renew Berns’ contract that took place during a recent closed session, Leaman said, “I just can’t comment on that.”
Parents asked Leaman if the next principal might be a current teacher.

“There is the possibly of internal candidates being brought up,” Leaman said. “They will go through the proper and standard procedure of interviews and assessment like any outside candidate would.” 

In other meeting news

Two action items Tuesday were unanimously passed by the board.

One item was approving the resolution authorizing the issuance of 2018 tax and revenue anticipation notes (TRANS) and requesting the Placer County Board of Supervisors to issue said notes.

The other action item approved the adoption of revised/new policies, exhibits and regulations, which include uniform complaint procedures, recruitment and selection, sexual harassment and personal illness/injury leave policies.