Montgomery County School Supt. Charles M. Bernardo, whose textbook vocabulary has frequently left his listeners in a cloud of confusion, has promised to be more plain-spoken in the future, thanks to a note from an anonymous arbiter of concise English who calls himself "The Curmudgeon."
The Curmudgeon is an educator who felt compelled to write under that assumed name to Dr. Kenneth Muir, Bernardo's information director, after attending a summer workshop at which the superintendent spoke several times.
Often the superintendent's ideas are drowned out by his words. If he wanted to tell us that when the cat's away, the mice will play, it would come out something like this: 'Rodents, in the absence of their feline adversaries, are prone to divert themselves.'"
"What is needed is not a bold new approach to communicating with staff . . . My humble suggestion is simply this: that the superintendent communicate with us by memorandum, but before the memo goes out, someone in your office translate it into concise English," the Curmudgeon went on to say.
"If after the obfuscation has been wiped away, there's a blank piece of paper, well, that says something, too."
The superintendent, whose speaking pattern often fits his formal and reserved manner of dressing (pin striped suits, stiff collars and vests), reponded to the letter with aplomb, stating that "My Consciousness has been raised (by it)."
The man who introduced such terms as "continuum education" and such programs as the Learner Centered Management Support System to Montgmery County, now says he recognizes that "my written and spoken language is frequently both formal and pedantic. It tends to be more so with educators than with other folks."
Barbara P. Ondrasik, a school public information officer, said much of what Bernardo writes is first edited by the information staff but that "we can't do anything about the way he talks."
Bernardo, a New York native who graduated from New York University and Columbia University, has since urged school personnel in his response to the Curmudgeon, to weed out the "formal and pedantic langauge (which he said is) of epidemic proportions" in their writings.