Berkeley school district appoints Sam Pasarow as new principal of Berkeley High School

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Berkeley Unified School District announced Wednesday the appointment of Sam Pasarow as the new principal of Berkeley High School.

The decision to appoint Pasarow, the current principal of Oakland’s Edna Brewer Middle School, concludes the process of finding a permanent successor of Pasquale Scuderi, who became the city school district’s assistant superintendent for education services last year. Pasarow will officially begin his term in July.

Pasarow said he is moving to Berkeley High because it is a “bigger school,” which will allow him to make a “bigger impact.” Pasarow added that he taught at the high school briefly in 2001 while working toward his teaching credential and enjoyed his time in the city.

Donald Evans, the school district’s superintendent, described Pasarow — who earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at UC Berkeley — as “absolutely the right man to move (Berkeley High) to the next level” and praised his leadership.

According to the announcement, under Pasarow’s leadership, Edna Brewer Middle School students earned the highest reading and Common Core math benchmark scores in the current school year among middle schools in the Oakland Unified School District.

Pasarow is also well-known in the Oakland educational community for pioneering the use of restorative justice in disciplining students, according to Troy Flint, spokesperson for the Oakland school district.

Pasarow described restorative justice as a disciplinary method based on bringing both sides of a conflict together and conversing in a “talking circle” with other adults and students. In more serious incidents, parents may also be involved. The goal is to “create empathy and community building,” according to Pasarow, which he believes is more effective than traditional methods of punishing students.

Pasarow added that restorative justice has been successful at Edna Brewer Middle School, citing a decrease in suspension rates, a decrease in student absenteeism and an improvement in academic performance — among other indicators — in recent years.

Evans said that although the Berkeley school district already has a restorative justice program in place, it is not comprehensive, and that Pasarow can improve it.

The school district partnered with the Cosca Group, a consulting firm that specializes in educational leadership, during the nationwide recruiting process. School district spokesperson Mark Coplan said consulting firms are hired for only senior positions and described the process of replacing Scuderi, which began in January, as “extraordinary.”

In the announcement, the school district said “extensive interviews, testing, references and background checks” were used to assess the candidates. Information was gathered from students, staff, parents and community members in order to investigate “the qualities desired in the next high school principal,” the announcement said.

In addition to serving as the principal of Edna Brewer Middle School, Pasarow’s experience includes serving as principal of four other schools in Oakland. Pasarow will take over the position from Kristin Glenchur, who has been serving as the interim principal since Scuderi’s departure.

Contact Natchapol Praditpetchara at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @natchapolp.