Berkeley High School principal remains on paid leave

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As the spring semester starts and rumors swirl, Berkeley High School principal Sam Pasarow will remain on indefinite paid leave for reasons still undisclosed to the public.

Pasarow’s leave was first announced in an email to Berkeley High families Dec. 5. An update to the situation was provided in another email sent Dec. 30 that acknowledged rumors about the circumstances of the leave. While the email did not reveal reasons behind Pasarow’s absence, it gave a provisional mid-January timeline for the release of additional information.

“We recognize that unfortunately there have been rumors and speculation around the circumstances of the leave, but the confidentiality rules around personnel matters make it impossible for us to provide additional details at this time,” said Berkeley Unified School District superintendent Donald Evans and Pasquale Scuderi, assistant superintendent for educational services, in the Dec. 30 email.

In response to a perceived lack of communication, the Berkeley PTA Council launched a Change.org petition Dec. 29 seeking greater transparency from the school district. The petition alleged that the district’s silence has fueled inaccurate rumors about Pasarow’s leave.

“We’ve observed that Mr. Pasarow consistently places student needs first; we’re concerned that the District’s handling of this situation puts our students’ needs last,” the PTA Council Executive Board said in the petition.

The petition also mentions rumors about Berkeley High’s alleged mishandling of a sexual assault case and the alleged bullying of classified employees, a concern that was raised at the Nov. 16 Board of Education meeting.

At the Nov. 16 meeting, Paula Phillips — president of the Berkeley Council of Classified Employees — criticized Pasarow’s attitude toward classified employees, citing unresolved safety problems that allegedly resulted from cost-cutting measures taken by Pasarow.

“These issues cannot be overlooked, and we’re requesting immediate action,” Phillips said at the meeting.

The Berkeley Council of Classified Employees could not be reached for comment.

The spring semester at Berkeley High will proceed under the leadership of the school’s executive vice principal, Erin Schweng.

While the temporary absence of a principal has posed challenges for the large high school, according to an email from school district spokesperson Charles Buress, Berkeley High remains confident it will continue to run smoothly under Schweng and with additional, short-term support from administrators.

The Berkeley school district currently is not searching for a new principal, Buress said in his email, adding that it would be inappropriate to discuss whether Schweng will permanently replace Pasarow as principal.

“It is not possible at this time to say exactly when Mr. Pasarow might return or whether or when someone else might be asked to step into the role,” Buress said in an email. “The matter is still under confidential review.”

Contact Edward Booth at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @Edward_E_Booth.