Edinboro Alumni Issue: Kenneth Berlin

Friday, October 13th, 2017 at 9:02 PM

When he’s not gazing through his telescope at the stars or playing some jazz tunes on his trumpet, Kenneth Berlin uses his ­leadership skills gained from Edinboro University as the superintendent of the Wattsburg Area School District.

Growing up in the Erie area, Berlin had no clue he would ever be in the position he is now. First, he was drawn to astronomy and science as a kid. He thought studying the stars and galaxy was the route he would take. Then, he started playing the trumpet.

“It was really my success playing the trumpet and the positive feedback that came with it that got me to where I am today,” said Berlin.

Berlin played trumpet in high school and was active in ensembles and groups. He was actually seated first chair, first trumpet his senior year at the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) state level band festival. After a few professors from Edinboro University saw Berlin play his trumpet solos, they recruited him to join the music department.

“They hunted me down, invited me to the campus, gave me a tour and told me to consider attending their university,” said Berlin.

Berlin decided he would be a good fit there and attended Edinboro University where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music education and a master’s degree in education. After graduating, Berlin got offered a graduate assistantship at Temple University to run their jazz bands and to finish his master’s degree in performing arts, again specializing in the trumpet.

“I had it in my mind to go to New York and play at the broadway pit orchestra and I knew I could do it and become a paid, working musician,” said Berlin. “But then, at the last minute, my former Harbor Creek Senior High School band director called me and said ‘I'm retiring and I was wondering if you were interested in my job.’ I had a choice. Money won out and I became their new high school band director.”

Berlin began his career in education as the director of instrumental music at Harbor Creek where he produced a series of championship marching bands. He has also taught music at the collegiate level, serving as the assistant director of the Edinboro University Marching Band, where he coordinated musical arrangements and assisted with show design.

Prior to being appointed as superintendent of the Wattsburg Area School District in 2013, Berlin worked as a principal in the Wattsburg and Iroquois school districts and held various positions at the elementary, middle, and high school level. His first administrative job after band director was assistant principal at Seneca High School.

“I had been in principal leadership positions long enough and after about 14 years, I started watching decisions being made above me that impacted me negatively. I thought ‘I could do that better’ and that's what drove me to take the superintendent position,” explained Berlin.

He also served as the assistant director of educational programs for the Northwestern Tri-County Intermediate Unit, where he taught other administrators and principals technology skills that would help them analyze test and assessment data. In addition, he earned his superintendent certification from Gannon University and served as an adjunct in Gannon University’s Graduate School of Education for approximately 10 years. He now serves as an adjunct at Edinboro University in the Educational Leadership Program. Berlin is also the current superintendent of record for the Erie County Technical School.

As of now, he’s been superintendent for about five years and has no plans of changing that. “I’m similar to a CEO of a company because at the end of the day, I’m responsible for everything as the superintendent,” said Berlin. In this position, Berlin deals with all the legal matters and the community issues, along with, one of his biggest challenges, managing the budget.

“Our pension payments are out of control due to past mistakes and budgeting and money is definitely on my mind every day,” said Berlin.

As an avid trumpet and bass player, Berlin maintains a busy performance schedule on a professional and volunteer basis outside of his educational leadership responsibilities. His entire family is very musically talented, as well. His wife, Rhonda Berlin, is a professional pianist at Mercyhurst College and his daughters, Katie and Mandy, both sing and play instruments. On some weekends, Berlin and his wife play in the pit orchestra at the Erie Playhouse when his kids are performing in a show.

Though Berlin loves wearing his musician hat, he believes it’s even more rewarding knowing he makes a difference in the lives of young kids and the community.

“In my position as a leader, I try to look at it in a real practical way, and I always remind my people ‘when we’re working with students, work with the students that you have, don’t work with the students that you wish you had,’” said Berlin. “You can only do the best with what you have by taking them as far as they’re able to go.”

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