June 17, 2002 11:00 pm

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

ELGIN — Elgin School District Superintendent Kerma Berry is preparing to make a homecoming.

Berry has been named superintendent of the Dayville School District. Berry, who grew up in Dayville, west of John Day, is leaving after one year as as Elgin's superintendent.

"I'm going home. That is the whole reason. I'm not leaving because I'm unhappy, I have enjoyed being here,'' Berry said.

Berry has been with the Elgin School District for two years. She served as the principal of Elgin High School in 2000-01. As superintendent she also has been the high school's principal.

Berry is moving from a school district with about 460 students to one with just 55. Adjusting to a smaller-sized school district will be a challenge, Berry said.

Berry said that it will be hard to leave the people of the Elgin School District.

"They always make you feel welcome and that you are doing a good job,'' Berry said. "It is going to be difficult to leave.''

She said that the people of Elgin are very compassionate.

"Their true bottom desire is to do what is best for children educationally,'' Berry said.

Berry is leaving a school district which, like most in Northeast Oregon, is in dire financial straits due to declining enrollment. Last month the school board was forced to cut four teaching positions in order to balance its budget. The school district has been forced to cut more than 12 full-time teaching and staff positions over the past decade because of funding shortfalls.

Berry said that the Dayville School District is also facing difficult financial challenges.

Elgin School Board Chairman Tom Arrand said that Berry has done an outstanding job.

"I hate to see her go. Dayville better realize what they are getting. She is quite an asset,'' he said.

Arrand said that Berry is the type of person who has always reached out to others.

"She has done a lot for the self-esteem of the students at the high school. It helps when someone shows that they care. She cares about every kid,'' Arrand said.

School board member Bud Scoubes echoes this sentiment.

"We hate to see her leave but we understand that she is going home. We wish her the best,'' Scoubes said.

Scoubes said that Berry has had a positive effect on the school district.

"She is a hard worker and is very concerned about kids,'' Scoubes said.

Berry came to Elgin after working in the Imbler School District for 30 years. She taught junior high math, science and physical education in the Imbler School District.

In Elgin, Berry succeeded Larry Christman as superintendent. Christman served as interim superintendent in 2000-01. Christman, formerly the superintendent of the Enterprise School District,

came out of retirement to serve as Elgin's superintendent.