Writer: Josh Brown
Photographer: Brian Brosmer
He’s still getting settled in, but Michael Beresford already feels right at home in his new office at Carmel Clay Schools.
Dr. Beresford was voted in by the school board as the new superintendent of Carmel Clay Schools earlier this month and officially starts on July 1. He has described this next chapter of his career as “surreal.”
“I’ve used that word before, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt it until now,” Dr. Beresford says. “I am extremely excited. I feel like the luckiest guy on the planet. I’ve had some great opportunities and this has been really special. The process the board used was very thoughtful and sometimes grueling, but I just feel fortunate to be the one that got picked.”
Dr. Beresford is no stranger to Carmel, having worked right across town for 25 years with Hamilton Southeastern Schools. The resume speaks for itself.
He started on as a school guidance counselor at HSE Schools before eventually working his way up to the roles of director of counseling, principal and, the latest position he held, assistant superintendent. That experience likely gave Beresford a leg up on the competition.
As for his interest in the position, Dr. Beresford says it was truly a perfect fit at this point in his life.
“Being a Hamilton County administrator and having several years under my belt in many different settings was probably an advantage for me,” Dr. Beresford says. “It is all about fit, and for me, this is a dream come true. I have felt really peaceful about the whole process and this decision.”
His time at HSE Schools certainly will not be forgotten.
The relationships and memories Beresford made at HSE will stick forever. When he was first hired as a guidance counselor with HSE Schools in the early 90s, he says off 126th Street from Highway 37 there were about five houses and “the rest was farm fields.”
The school was much different then, too. Beresford says HSE had about 830 students at the high school at the time.
“I think there are that many students in a single lunch period now,” Dr. Beresford says. “When you talk about the relationships I’ve made — the only way schools are successful is when we work together. Twenty-five years in one place, I’ve got a lot of really strong relationships. It was real hard to say goodbye, but there is always a time for moving on.”
With the school year around the corner, Dr. Beresford is jumping right in with his new duties at Carmel. Carmel Clay Schools has some big decisions looming, particularly when it comes to new programming and the status of elementary buildings within the district.
Some of those decisions, while he will have input, will likely be decided before the school year starts. Regardless, Dr. Beresford says he is excited to get started and has made it his mission for his first 100 days to be a “listening tour.”
“My learning curve is pretty inclined,” he says. “Every school district and every community has its own culture. I’m trying to learn the Carmel way, and I figure the best way to do that is to talk to the people who live here and work here. This is a community that loves education. Education is valued in the homes, and the kids come to school ready to learn. I’m excited to get to know the community.”
Aside from programming and the elementary buildings, several hot-button topics will be discussed as the school year gets started — namely school safety.
The events in May with the shooting at Noblesville West Middle School shook all of Hamilton County. Neighboring school districts like Carmel Clay Schools and HSE Schools jumped in to support Noblesville in any way possible.
School safety, of course, goes well beyond instances of school shootings. Beresford says it is a topic that is constantly discussed among administration and ever-changing as they look for ways to keep students safe each day.
“In Hamilton County, all the school districts work together when it comes to school safety,” he says. “We are always talking with one another to find out what each school system is doing and hearing. All school shootings shake educators, parents and communities to the bone. When it is right next door, it is even more devastating. We will evaluate what we can do every day to keep our school and our students safe.”
Dr. Beresford has already met with the head school resource officer and is working with the Carmel Police Department about anything that needs to be done or in place before school starts.
He says the community will also have input on school safety as well.
At the end of May, Dr. Beresford took part in the school safety forum held at HSE Schools. The forum was highly successful and resulted in engaging discussions between faculty, parents and police. Dr. Beresford says he hopes to have a similar forum soon for the Carmel community to voice their questions, concerns and opinions on the topic of school safety.
Coming from a counseling background, mental health is also a topic near and dear to Dr. Beresford. Last year, he developed a partnership with HSE Schools and Community Health Network. The result was 13 licensed mental health therapists that now work throughout the school district. HSE also received a $2.1M grant last year through the Lilly Endowment for the initiative.
Carmel Clay School already has social workers and some initiatives in place when it comes to mental health. But Dr. Beresford says he will certainly be evaluating those initiatives as well and looking to see if any other support systems need to be added in the future.
“It is a topic I am passionate about,” Dr. Beresford says. “We want to support our kids that have mental health needs, but we also want to put into place education on how to deal with stress and anxiety. It isn’t just in Hamilton County, our kids everywhere are stressed out these days. We have to get over the stigma that mental health is different from physical health. We don’t want any student or anyone in the community to be suffering in silence.”
As the community gets to know Dr. Beresford, they will quickly find out that he is a family man. He’s been married for 29 years, has three kids (all out of the house now), enjoys music, plays some guitar and says he and his wife are “hikers and bikers.”
But, at the end of the day, he says he’s “a school guy” and always has been passionate about education.
“I want the community to know that my team and I are going to do everything we can do to make sure your kids have a world-class experience at school,” Dr. Beresford says. “I look forward to teaming up with the parents in the community. The community is together because we all want our kids to be in a position to have a wonderful future. Great things are already happening here. I just hope to fan that flame and keep it going.”