CCS Welcomes New Superintendent
Writer // Janelle Morrison Photographer // Theresa Skutt and submitted
The Carmel Clay School (CCS) district welcomed its new Superintendent Dr. Michael Beresford last month after an extensive and thorough appointment process by the CCS Board of Trustees. Beresford, formerly the assistant superintendent at Hamilton Southeastern Schools (HSE) and a longtime resident of Hamilton County, doesn’t have to spend a great deal of his first 100 days acclimating. He is already familiar with the Carmel community that shares many similarities and concerns as Fishers, where Beresford is coming from, with respect to providing the best education and opportunities for our students as well as school safety.
We sat down with Beresford to discuss where his professional story begins and where he would like to go in this next chapter of his career.
Beresford is originally from Danville, Illinois, and moved to Indiana for is first teaching position. He has worked in academia for 35 years. Earlier in his career, he was a distance runner and coach and is an avid hiker and bicyclist. He enjoys music and plays some guitar. He is active in his church and with service organizations like Fishers Youth Assistance Program and plans to become active now in the Carmel Youth Assistance Program that serves Carmel youth and their families.
When asked how having a doctorate in educational administration, a master’s degree in school counseling and a bachelor’s degree in English and journalism prepared Beresford for the role of superintendent, he replied, “When I look back, I’ve been an educator and student almost all of those years, so I guess the notion of ‘lifelong learner’ applies. I think the mix of being an educational researcher PEN (proud education nerd) in addition to all of the practical experiences I’ve had working with students, parents, teachers, counselors, administrators, school boards, city and community will hopefully be a solid base to work off of in my first round as superintendent.”
Beresford eventually became the director of guidance at HSE and received his administrator’s license after getting his master’s degree in school counseling.
“I did leave [HSE] and went to Belzer Middle School in Lawrence for two years,” Beresford said. “It was my first administrative experience. Afterwards, I was hired to open Fishers Junior High School and was there for eight years as assistant principal. I loved that job and enjoyed working with the students there. Then I was offered the opportunity to design, build, staff and open Riverside School. That was one of the most incredible experiences of my career. It really was special.”
Upon establishing the Riverside School, Beresford was invited to work at the administrative office as the assistant superintendent, which he says was a difficult decision at the time because he knew he would miss working with the students and teachers on a daily basis. “I believe that I was able to do some good things for the district in that role,” he reflected. “I learned a lot from that level.”
When Beresford received a call and was encouraged to apply for the superintendent position at Carmel, he admitted that he was going to have to compete with accomplished and highly regarded superintendents who were also interviewing, but when he received the phone call informing him that the Board of Trustees had decided that Beresford was “their guy,” he was ecstatic. “It has been a dream come true for me at this point,” he said.
Having come from “across the river,” Beresford said that the Fishers and Carmel communities have many similarities, though he is eager to learn the “Carmel way” and plans on doing a lot of listening and talking with members of the community at all levels to get a grasp of what the CCS district needs and expects of Beresford now that he is at the helm.
“One of the things that I really appreciate about Carmel and HSE parents is that they value education,” he said. “As long as we’re [the administration] transparent and straightforward, I’ve never had parents not support our initiatives on behalf of our students. Trust is built by being consistent over time. We all have the same thing in common – we want our kids to have an incredible educational experience, and when the parents have our back, that’s a beautiful thing.”
While at HSE, Beresford spearheaded an initiative along with Community Health Network to raise awareness and provide mental health support to the students. He plans to duplicate his Fishers efforts in Carmel and work at developing partnerships with local agencies and organizations to ensure that the city’s youth are being served.
“This is a subject that I am very passionate about,” Beresford emphasized. “I know CCS has been working on addressing the needs of the whole child that includes access to mental health support. I look forward to learning more about the CCS support systems and will continue to be all-in about doing whatever is needed to make sure our kids can learn and grow to be successful adults.”
Upon the passing of HSE’s last referendum, HSE was able to hire a mental health coordinator and contracted with Community Health Network. The partnership enabled students access to a mental health counselor in every single school in the district. Beresford reported that nearly 600 students received in-school counseling services as a result of this initiative.
“I live school safety every day,” Beresford stated. “Every day of my career in administration has started out with school safety. I look at what we’ve got in place and how we can get better. It’s a continuous process. When it comes to school safety, the fences are down in Hamilton County. We all work together. All of our law enforcement agencies work, drill and train together. Our county is very fortunate in that we work very closely to try to keep our kids safe.”
With the subject of students’ safety being of the highest priority, we asked Beresford how he plans to engage and work with local public safety agencies on the issue of student safety prior to the commencement of the 2018-19 school year.
“I’m learning the layers that are already established here,” Beresford explained. “When I say layers, I mean that there are layers upon layers of school safety. Some of the layers are very obvious and are visible, such as the drills that we teach kids. School safety is a daily priority, and we will be constantly evaluating our school safety layers to see where we are and where we need to go to keep our students safe. I am meeting with our lead School Resource Officer (SRO) and look forward to working closely with Carmel Police, as well as Fire, the City and Hamilton County to collaborate in securing our schools.”
Beresford stressed the importance of his team working with the students and adults in providing fast and efficient modes of communicating in ways that students, in particular, are most comfortable.
“Our students play the most important role, and we will make sure that we have easy, open lines of communication with our kids as well as staff and parents,” Beresford said. “Whether it is regarding somebody making a threat or is a student who is despondent and perhaps suicidal, we have established pathways of communication, both confidential and direct, so that kids and adults can let us know what’s going on. We need the whole community involved in school safety because together, we are stronger.”
In addition to his immediate goals and duties, Beresford will assist the CCS Board of Trustees with the current strategic plan by reviewing the plan and offering recommendations from the school team.
“In regards to the board’s strategic plan, my role in that is to assist and access where we are with those goals,” he said. “We [the school team] wish to continue the process and move forward in addressing the educational and social/emotional needs of our students.”
Beresford concluded, “Education is a tough profession, more of a calling really, and we all want our children to have an incredible educational experience at school. You can’t expect people to trust you because you have a title or position. It’s when you work with people and connect that you build trust. Working together, we are so much stronger, even if at times we disagree. We are still better for having discussed all sides of any issue, and in those tough places, trust grows.”