Director Emeriti Stories: Bert Berkley

Years ago, former IEL President Marty Blank and Director Emeritus Bert Berkley were both part of a “kitchen cabinet” working with the Kansas City, Missouri School District as advisors to their executives. At the time, Bert was the President and Chairman of the Board at Tension Envelope Corporation, a family-owned business that manufactured envelopes, and later progressed to packaging and supplying the e-commerce industry in their requirements for packaging under the name, Tension Corporation.

After meeting and working together several times, Marty asked Bert to join the IEL Board, which Bert “was delighted to do,” noting he was impressed by Marty’s ideas for the Kansas City, Missouri School District and the IEL Board, when looking at their qualifications and backgrounds, adding “I thought I could learn something – a good deal from them, and was very interested, and continue to be very interested in learning.”

Bert shares that “I was relatively religious about attending board meetings, so I gained a great deal from being on the Board of IEL.”

Reflecting on what he thinks other organizations should know about IEL, Bert notes “I think the most important thing is that school districts in this country should know about IEL’s involvement with other school districts, and how [their support] has been very beneficial to those particular school districts.”

“[Districts]…are going to be able to carry out their responsibilities in a more effective manner, simply because of what they can learn from the representatives of IEL who are servicing their communities…From my standpoint, IEL is such an effective teacher for those who have responsibilities and the teachers and individual executive administrators, to do a more effective job.”

Looking to the future, Bert sees an opportunity for IEL to be a leader in raising the rate of students who can read at grade-level. He explained, “One of the most serious problems facing this nation, not just the educational community, but facing this nation, is the fact that, of those children completing third grade nationally, only 35% can read at grade level – 35%. And prior to that, in 2017 the number was 37%. So, prior to the pandemic we were already seeing a reduction in the percentage of children who could read at grade level. So, we have a serious problem that faces this nation, and the educational community recognizes the problem, but has not been effective in doing something about it. Is there a way to do something about it? Definitely. What has to happen is over fifty percent of the time teaching reading must be spent using phonics, and it’s my judgment.”

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