Superintendent/principal at Twin Ridges Elementary School District leaving after nine years
To better understand his students, and classroom dynamics, James Berardi watched the film “Dead Poets Society.”
Berardi had been working as an environmental consultant, and had no teaching experience, but found himself substitute teaching after a car wreck. He was in need of advice.
“I wasn’t a teacher,” he said. “I wasn’t trained.”
The film — or his science knowledge, or leadership skills, or a combination of it all — worked in his favor.
The students did well in his biology and chemistry classes in the Marysville Joint Unified School District, he said. Berardi taught in the district for six years.
For the last nine years, Berardi has served as dual principal and superintendent for the Twin Ridges Elementary School District. But the administrator decided to take another dual position as the superintendent of the Sierra-Plumas Joint Unified District and Sierra County Office of Education beginning Sept. 16. As an empty nester, he sees it as an opportunity to be closer with his mother and to finish his career where he started — having gone to high school in the district years ago.
“It gives me the possibility of completing the whole cycle,” he said.
Sunshine Bender, subsecretary and after-school programmer for Twin Ridges, said she began working in a kitchen within the district, and would have never pursued a path in administration had it not been for Berardi’s motivation.
“He is one of the best bosses I’ve ever had,” she said, later adding, “We’re all very sad that he’s leaving.”
For almost a decade, Berardi has been operating as both a principal and superintendent. He said his roles have been both challenging and fun.
“It’s an enjoyment because you’re part of everything that’s going on in the district,” he said.
But before he was an administrator, the superintendent/principal was teaching in Marysville. While there he was asked to write curriculum for the school district.
Berardi later taught in Downieville High School and spent time as its interim principal before eventually moving to Twin Ridges.
Now, on the back end of his career, Berardi is moving to Sierra County. He said he has no qualms with Twin Ridges nor Nevada County, but being an empty nester and wanting to conclude where he started, his next step “was just kind of a perfect storm.”
As a teacher and administrator, Berardi said he’s learned not to complicate things.
“The idea is keep it simple,” he said. “Keep the kids at the center of what you’re doing.”
If students need to change their behavior, try guiding differently.
“A lot of times, it’s just listening to the kid,” he said. They often tell him, “‘I appreciate just you listening.’”
At the moment, Berardi doesn’t know who will replace him full time. He said he’s been working with Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Scott Lay as well as the Twin Ridges board to find the right candidate. The spot, he said, will be filled by the end of October and the interim superintendent/principal will be Debra Sandoval, a retiree who previously worked as a superintendent in the county.
As he finishes his time, Berardi said it’s not easy to leave.
“It’s difficult because you have relationships with these people.”
To contact Staff Writer Sam Corey email email@example.com or call 530-477-4219.
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