Dr. Judi Berry! Where Are You??!
When I first met Judi and her husband Mandeville, neither of us had children and we were desperately trying to learn to be more than “hit and gigglers” at the game of tennis under the consummate tutelage of the late Maurice Peatros. It was a beautiful summer where we had very few responsibilities outside of developing young careers and enjoyed the luxury of hanging around the tennis courts at Kingsley Court or Frandor’s Ranney Park from the time we got off of work well into early evening. Through persistence and much practice, we eventually learned to return a serve and even engage in a few consistent lobbies back and forth.
Even then Judi demonstrated a humble, unassuming demeanor that masked a woman of near genius capabilities. She’s graduated from Detroit’s Marygrove College at a time when very few blacks would only imagine of gracing their doors with dreams or imaginings, let alone their presence. Since she never spoke of her professional accomplishments, I had no idea that she was a highly regarded administrator with Lansing Community College. But eventually when I joined the college’s ranks, I heard rumblings of her technological savvy and keen business acumen. Good for Judi, I thought. I’m proud to know her.
But when she quietly left Lansing Community College(LCC) for Michigan Department of Education, I was confused. Why would the community college allow a woman of her worth to leave its ranks during a time when she was needed most? As me and several other black colleagues hired around 1988, encountered a “different management experience” that appeared “unique” to LCC, I gained insights into what might have happened with Judi’s blossoming career there. She was recruited to serve as state supervisor of business education with MDE in a position that had been vacant for 3 years as they looked for an individual with the appropriate career and technical education teaching certificate and Judi’s certificate fit the bill!. Wow, she had worked only blocks away from MDE and by accepting this position, her career was changed positively forever.
When LCC hired her back 13 years after my rapid ride on the railroad tracks there, not only had Judi become my sorority sister with Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., but she was now the Dean of the Business, Media, and Information Technologies Division. I cheered from the sidelines for a personal victory by proxy. But Berry was different and relentless with her career than in the earlier days! Somewhere along her surreptitious and determined path she completed her PhD in education with a specialization in community college leadership. Berry worked at LCC in the dean’s position for nine years and two years as associate vice president before leaving the college in spring of 2012. By spring of 2014, she was ready for a go at a seat on the Board of Trustees for the college. She contacted me regarding her bid for the vacancy and requested my support. We strategized, made connections and I wrote a feature story with the Michigan Bulletin introducing Dr. Judith K. Berry as a viable candidate for the Lansing Community College Board of Trustees.
She won, got involved and made things happen from a political/educational perspective. Again, we lost touch for a few years and I relocated to Atlanta. One day, I saw her on a social media site and learned that she was living in Seattle, Washington! All I could do was smile because that’s how she rolls. Quietly and very deliberate; strategic. Immediately I called to find out what was going on and here’s what I learned…
TUKWILA COMMUNITY SCHOOL DISTRICT
In 2015, Dr. Berry consulted with the district initially as an educational strategist to assist with federal title grant compliance, a role she knew well as she has helped many schools in Michigan and around the country over her career and now as business owner of Technical Education Services and Training, LLC (TEST, LLC). Later she stepped in as assistant superintendent of finance and operations to assist Dr. Nancy Coogan, Tukwila Superintendent of Schools when the CFO departed for another district.
She was then hired as the Deputy Superintendent in March, 2016 and worked in that position until Coogan submitted her resignation in August of 2017 unexpectantly due to “family matters” needing attention. Shortly thereafter, she was hired to replace Coogan as Interim Superintendent and hit the ground running with focus on three primary areas: Student Success, Fiscal Management and Establishing/Strengthening Business Liaisons.
According to Berry, “the district will continue to provide students with a contemporary curriculum to ensure the students are college and career ready and that partners with business/industry will give students workplace experience and increase student engagement with families.”
Additionally, “Smart Labs have been installed in each elementary and middle school to allow students to explore STEAM and media arts through applied technology and skill based learning,” she said. “The labs provide personalized learning and intrinsic motivations that engage students of all ages, interests and abilities. The students create remarkable projects that motivate them to inquire, explain, tackle new problems and create new solutions.”
“Tukwila Schools serve scholars/families with access to contemporary curriculum and instruction that promotes academic excellence to ensure students are college and career ready,” Berry said.