An unconventional eastern plains superintendent whose heart is more in riding the range than sitting in class is heading toward greener pastures.
Pat Bershinsky, superintendent of Edison School District 54-JT in Yoder for the past seven years, will be confirmed as the new chief executive officer and executive director of Pikes Peak Board of Cooperative Educational Services, or BOCES, at a meeting Thursday.
"I'm looking at it as a career move," Bershinsky said Monday. "I do this job to pay for my cow and horse habit anyway. And it's getting close to time for Pat to go back to feeding cattle full-time."
Pikes Peak BOCES has nine rural districts as members, who pay for shared services and support for such programs as special education, gifted and talented, and teacher development.
The organization also runs the School of Excellence, which works with 130 students from around the region who have educational, behavioral and social challenges.
Other superintendents of school districts involved with the group asked Bershinsky if he would consider stepping in, upon the upcoming resignation of the current leader, Christine Barela.
Bershinsky is a good choice, said Tim Kistler, superintendent of Peyton School District 23-JT, a member of the BOCES.
"We've been struggling to find someone who knows and understands us well enough to know the direction we should be going," Kistler said. "Pat understands the needs of the membership and will be able to address them quickly. He has great knowledge of state expectations and of legislation, and he has a relaxed attitude to where conversations are discussed, not argued or fought about."
Pikes Peak BOCES has had high turnover in the top job, with four executive directors in the past seven years. And Bershinsky has a proven record of turning things around.
During his tenure at Edison 54-JT, he's led the smallest school district in the Pikes Peak region to the top of the state's accreditation rankings.
He's looking for a repeat performance.
"My main goal going into the BOCES is to make it a model program throughout the United States," Bershinsky said. "I was humbled when the other supes asked me if I would be interested, so I'm going to give it a shot and see. Hopefully, I'm not unemployed next year."
Pikes Peak BOCES needs consistency, he said, for both the students in its School of Excellence and the rural districts that contract services through the co-op.
"That's how you build a program," Bershinsky said.
As for his job at Edison 54-JT, Bershinsky said he's "enjoyed every aspect of it - the staff, the kids, the successes."
What has been the key to elevating the district to the state's top-performing academically?
"Constant attention to detail," he said. Good teachers also help, he said.
For this school year, Edison 54-JT earned 92.5 percent of accreditation points based on students' academic achievement, academic growth over previous years and readiness for college or career after high school. That's the No. 1 spot in the state. But it's been hitting high rankings since 2014, and consequently is growing. Enrollment has increased from 185 students in 2012 to this year's 231 students.
Along with the hat of superintendent, Bershinsky has been principal, head bottle washer, lead lawn mower, bus driver and other roles.
Lately, the 51-year-old Bershinsky has added "construction demolition crew" to his titles. The district is in the midst of a $14 million expansion, and the old part of the school building is coming down. But not before salvaging doors, windows and parts of the gym.
Bershinsky won't completely cut his ties with Edison. The school board has offered him a two-year contract to continue running Edison Prep, a concurrent enrollment school with 120 students who take college credit courses at the same time as earning their high school diploma.
"I'm a different kind of superintendent; I rode bulls for 16 years and have always enjoyed ranching and breaking horses," Bershinsky said. "I just happen to be an educator, too, and I've enjoyed every second of my time at Edison."
Upon Thursday's approval from the Pikes Peak BOCES board, he will start his new job July 1.