Berkley school board names finalists for superintendent

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published April 21, 2021

 Berkley School District Superintendent Dennis McDavid, seen here in 2018, will be leaving his job at the end of June after nine years. The Board of Education has named two finalists to succeed McDavid.

Berkley School District Superintendent Dennis McDavid, seen here in 2018, will be leaving his job at the end of June after nine years. The Board of Education has named two finalists to succeed McDavid.

File photo by Donna Agusti

 Beth Gonzalez

Beth Gonzalez

 Scott Francis

Scott Francis

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BERKLEY — The Berkley School District has landed on two finalists to become its future superintendent.

In January, Dennis McDavid announced he was stepping down as superintendent after nine years on the job. His last day on the job will be June 30.

McDavid told the Woodward Talk that nine years was a long time to lead a school district, with his understanding that the average tenure of a superintendent was around two and a half years. He felt now was his time to take his leave.

“Our district has done a lot in those nine years and we’ve advanced things and done great things for our kids, and it just felt like it was time to pursue some other options,” he said.

For the past several months, the Board of Education was tasked with gathering and reviewing applications for the pending vacancy. It received 24 applications from candidates, which it narrowed down to three.

Those three candidates were Todd Bidlack, assistant superintendent of learning services at Bloomfield Hills Schools; Scott Francis, director of teaching, learning and technology for Berkley schools; and Beth Gonzalez, assistant superintendent for the Detroit Public Schools Community District.

Interviews with the candidates were conducted April 12-13, and on April 15, the board decided that Francis and Gonzalez will move forward in the next stage of the process.

That process, according to board President Keith Logsdon, is more interviews and reviewing community comments on the candidates.

“We want to have a chance to review all that and get a sense about, No. 1, where the community is, and No. 2, kind of where our heads are moving forward,” he said.

The board will interview Francis at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 28, and Gonzalez at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 29. Both will take place in the Berkley High School’s auditorium, and the public is invited to attend.

Logsdon said Francis and Gonzalez both fit the board’s credentials of what members want in their next superintendent.

“The interviews went well and we felt like we needed more time in front of them,” he said. “It’s hard to get a sense about a person from an hourlong interview, and I think we need more time. We’re not really in a huge rush for this. We’re gonna let the process play out.”

The board is scheduled to make a decision by its May 10 meeting, but can elect to name a finalist anytime before them.

On the selection process, McDavid said the board needs to find someone who matches their visions for where they want the district to go.

“(We’re looking for) someone who’s as invested in the relationships in the community as we’ve been in the past, so all that continues,” he said. “Someone who’s focused on continuing the academic and social emotional strength of the district for our children … it’s about relationships with students, staff and the community.”

McDavid plans to take some time off after he fulfills the rest of his contract, but he stated that he does not plan to retire.

As for what he is most proud of from his nine years, the outgoing superintendent said the focus on academic success and opportunities for the students was high on his list. He also mentioned the bond passed in 2015 that gave the schools air conditioning for the first time, new boilers, and the installation of a cafeteria and multipurpose rooms at both Norup International School and Anderson Middle School.

“We’re in a great community and our district’s relationship with the community has always been great,” he said. “Our relationship with our teachers and administrators and, really, every staff member has always been great. This year, with the pandemic, all those things have been strained because we’ve been forced to make decisions where there’s no win-win, and a lot of these decisions are just tough decisions that no one is entirely happy with. We hope and believe those great relationships will continue beyond this year. Those things really matter.”

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