With no direct explanation as to why Principal Sam Pasarow of Berkeley High School was placed on paid leave, the Berkeley Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) created a petition on December 29, requesting transparency on the issue. The petition demands that the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) release information about the reason for Pasarow’s leave and states that if the District and Board of Berkeley did not give a reason for Pasarow’s paid leave, then he should be reappointed as the Principal of BHS.
The petition reads, “It is time for the District and Board to do the right thing: they must provide a solid and credible reason why Mr. Pasarow should be removed from BHS, or, lacking that, reinstate him.”
News of the absence of Pasarow was emailed to all BHS families on December 5, 2016. A second email followed on December 30 acknowledging the no information about Pasarow’s paid leave could be announced due to confidentiality rules concerning personal matters. However, the email stated that an update would hopefully be delivered to BHS families in the middle of January.
The online petition contains information about Pasarow’s year and a half of work at BHS, including his support for the Black Lives Matter movement and post-election protests by walking out with students, bringing back Spirit Week when other BHS administrators opposed the idea, and working on the BHS redesign to improve equity and achievement for students.
The petition reads that Pasarow was a strong Principal who was committed to prioritizing the safety of BHS students, while still empowering students in protests and walkouts.
Furthermore, it states that he took on many challenges and that the conduct that caused his paid leave might have been a mistake“Oftentimes, change is unsettling and leads to resistance, misunderstandings, and backlash. We are concerned that Mr. Pasarow is being treated unfairly simply for taking on these challenges,” members of the PTA wrote on the petition. The petition was created because some BHS families felt that Pasarow had only contributed positively to the BHS community and committed no crime, while others believe that the BHS community should know about the specifics surrounding Pasarow’s leave.
Christine Staples, President of the Berkeley PTA Council, explained, “We [the members of the PTA] also feel that BUSD has not been doing a good job of communicating with the community, and that has fostered rumors and been damaging to our community and personally to Principal Pasarow.”
Staples feels that the lack of transparency in BUSD has been an ongoing problem. She said, “Unfortunately, our school district has a long history of poor communication with the community.”
Staples continued about the gaps that she sees in the BUSD’s communication with the greater community.
She wants BUSD to remain transparent regarding the procedures they are following, how much time an issue will take to process, and when the community will be able to contribute their opinions on certain matters. With these thoughts in mind, the Executive Board of the Berkeley PTA Council, a part of the PTA that represents families and the community at the district level, voted on the creation of the petition and the petition passed unanimously.
Many teachers, parents, and friends from Berkeley have commented and signed the petition asking for answers related to Pasarow’s paid leave.
One BHS parent wrote, “I have three children at BHS right now and Mr. Pasarow has been trying to effect real change and it’s outrageous that he’s been put on leave for no apparent reason.”
Other BHS parents have asked questions demanding to know the reason for Pasarow’s absence. Among all the voices from the Berkeley community, there are plenty of comments from people who worked alongside Pasarow at Edna Brewer Middle School, and the petition also has supporters who are BHS alumni.
Around 385 people have signed the online petition out of the goal of reaching five hundred signatures. The petition was then delivered to the BUSD Board of Education, BUSD Superintendent of Schools Dr. Donald Evan, Assistant Superintendent Pasquale Scuderi, and Assistant Superintendent Javetta Cleveland. They recieved the petition before the School Board meeting on January 11, where members of the community attended the meeting.
Also, Staples said that the petition will remain available for more people to sign until Pasarow is reinstated or there is an explanation to why he was put on paid leave.