Michael Lerner was the former president of the Commonwealth Association of School
Administrators, retired principal and administrator for the School District of Philadelphia.
He died July 14, 2012 after a brief illness. He was 72.
He graduated from Philadelphia's Central High School, earned bachelor's and master's degrees in chemistry from the University of Buffalo and a doctorate in Education from Temple University in 1972.
He began his career in Philadelphia's public schools in 1970, working as a research assistant and later an administrative assistant, for then Superintendent Richard D. Hanusey in the former District 5 until 1981.
Lerner became director of Special Education, under Superintendent George D. Pilato, and served as principal of S.A. Douglass High School in Port Richmond until 2003. Lerner was appointed business agent for the Commonwealth Association of School Administrators, Teamsters Local 502, which represents Philadelphia school principals and other administrators.
He became CASA's president in October 2005 and held the post until his retirement in 2010.
“He was my friend and my mentor,” said CASA President Robert E. McGrogan.
“I always felt until yesterday I had a safety net in him and now that's gone. He was so cerebral. His knowledge of school law, education and pedagogy was extraordinary. Whether it was his helicopter view or tending to the individual needs of a child or any employee, he was the highest level of resource. He leaves quite a legacy and very big shoes to fill.”
“Michael had a strong sense of fairness and always used humor to diffuse tense situations and reach equitable solutions to problems," said AFT Pennsylvania President Ted Kirsch. “I've known Michael since 1972 in a variety of jobs. He had a talent for working with people and always remained focused on doing the right thing for students, the community and his union's members.”
During his career, Lerner served on numerous committees, taught graduate courses for Cheyney University, belonged to professional organizations, including ASCD, Pennsylvania Association of Secondary Principals and B'nai B'rith Educators Unit.
“Michael cared about students. He fought hard for those students. He treated all of them with respect and, in turn, was respected back. He wanted those children to succeed in school, as well as life,” said friend and colleague Bruce Rachild, a retired Bensalem assistant school superintendent.
“He was happiest telling positive stories about the students that he affected. These traits
were identical when dealing his staff and the administrators that he represented. Michael was a protector. He made sure that those who he represented received a ‘fair shake.’ In Michael's eyes, the glass was always half filled and everyone had value.”
Lerner received numerous honors, including the Rose Lindenbaum Award of Excellence and Chapel of the Four Chaplains, Schoolmens' Club of Philadelphia. He loved sports, playing softball for the Educators' White, enjoying the camaraderie. In retirement he enjoyed photography, country music and Temple University Owls football.
“Michael was a fun person to be around,” Rachild said.
“Always had a joke, always had a story and always told them in dialect. That's why we loved him and will remember him that way.”
“Michael was a problem-solver who deeply cared about people. He had a keen
ability to analyze an issue and find a solution to a problem,” said Jerry T. Jordan, president, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.
“He was a highly respected educator and labor leader. We will all miss Michael's quick wit
A sister, Susan and parents Anne and Joseph Lerner preceded Lerner in death.
Lerner is survived by his wife, Candy Lerner; daughters Cheryl and Liza Lerner and Ashley Govberg (Danny); and grandchildren Cooper and Spencer Govberg.
Services will be held July 17 at 3 p.m.at Goldstein Rosenberg's Raphael-Sacks Funeral Home, 6410 N. Broad St. Doors open at 2:20 p.m. Shiva will be observed following the funeral and from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on July 18 and July 19 at the home of Ashley and Danny Govberg, 1326 Arrowmink Road, Villanova.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to CASA for the Dr. Michael A. Lerner Award for Most Improved Student.