Berkeley High Principal Chosen Following Four-Month Search

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After a tedious four-month search, the Berkeley Unified School District Board of Education unanimously selected former Berkeley High School Vice Principal Pasquale Scuderi to helm the high school's divided community.

Scuderi, currently a director of human resources at the district, was selected from a pool of about 70 applicants following an interview process with panels of board members, teachers, students, parent groups and administrators.

The search began in March when former Principal Jim Slemp announced he would step down at the end of the school year, but district officials restarted the search in mid-May after three of the final six candidates - narrowed down from 40 initial applicants - failed to show up for final interviews.

After the renewed, nationwide search received nearly 30 more applications, the panels chose Scuderi.

"I don't think there could've been a better person," said Natasha Beery, president of the high school PTSA and a panel member. "Everyone really saw what Scuderi could bring to the table."

Scuderi applied for the position after district officials restarted the search, changing his decision to stay in the district office during the first phase.

"When the first search didn't yield a candidate that the community felt confident enough in, the option came back in front of me," Scuderi said in an interview Friday. "I really think my place is at a school site in a leadership position ... I had too many great memories of working with the kids and the staff at the school to not apply."

Board President Karen Hemphill said Scuderi ranked the highest among other candidates throughout the entire selection process.

"Many folks later said that he gave the most impressive interview, not because he was a good interviewer but in terms of substance," she said. "(He was) the best person they ever interviewed."

Hemphill added that Scuderi's experience as vice principal, as well as his experience working for the district, will give him an edge in his new position.

"Having been at the high school as a (vice principal) a couple years ago, he has a certain knowledge of that school that I think will help him hit the ground running," she said.

Before he became a human resources director at the district, Scuderi served as one of the school's vice principals from 2006 to 2008, during Slemp's term as principal.

"It was a great experience," he said, "I learned a ton of things about leadership and about how a large complex high school works from Jim Slemp."

Several issues - including budget cuts, schedule change proposals and threats to school programs such as science labs - have been divisive to the Berkeley High School community in recent years, creating the demand for a principal who can unite the school's community once again. Officials say Scuderi is the right man for the job.

"He has the trust and the competence to bring the Berkeley High community back together," Beery said.

As principal, Scuderi said he wants to tackle these challenges, build on the school's strengths and promote a quality teaching environment that will increase students' interest in classes.

"Quality teaching is the thing that has the most significant impact on student learning," he said, "I want to see kids going to classes with the same type of excitement they have when they go to the movies."


Contact Matt Burris at [email protected]

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