As principal, Erin Schweng led Berkeley High School (BHS) through some of its most difficult years in recent memory, and oversaw the implementation of the Universal 9th Grade, a popular program to introduce the freshmen of the future to BHS. On April 20, Schweng announced that she would be leaving BHS at the end of this school year. Vice principal Juan Raygoza will be taking over as interim principal for the next school year. Schweng has worked for many years within the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD), and became BHS principal three years ago after Sam Pasarow left midway through the school year.
To be a high school principal is an incredibly challenging job, and that is even more true at a school as large and complicated as BHS. Schweng had her most challenging days “when something really extraordinary was happening, usually some sort of outside threat or unusual situation,” she said. BHS has had more than its fair share of extraordinary events during Schweng’s time as principal, including numerous walkouts, violent Red and Gold days, and the unprecedented COVID-19 situation. Student school board representative Estella Hemp will be sad to see Schweng go, but appreciates the work she did while here towards meeting the needs of her students. “She took on a lot as not only a principal but just a person in general. Some people just give and give until they can’t anymore and it’s just sad that BHS lost such an amazing leader,” Hemp said.
Schweng faced many difficult decisions and public criticism during her time as principal. A school principal is such a visible figure that they often receive the blame for every administrative decision made, but Hemp felt that this should not be the light in which Schweng was viewed. “We as a community should look at Ms. Schweng leaving as an extreme loss,” said Hemp. It should be a “lesson to us all that all people have their limits and just because they take on the tough [role] of principal at BHS, that doesn’t mean you can bash their reputation as a professional.”
Schweng remained tirelessly dedicated to her students. “Ms. Schweng loves Berkeley High and that love permeates every decision she made,” said school board member Ty Alper. “Not everyone agreed with everything she did, but nobody could deny that she was deeply principled, and fiercely devoted to the students of this school.” Schweng stepped in during a tumultuous time where students were unsure of leadership, and she believes she “brought stability to the school when it was needed.” Students flourished thanks to her dedication. She could always be seen among the student body, talking to students and visiting classrooms. “BHS is a place where student voices are heard, respected, and celebrated, and I’m proud to have been part of that,” said Schweng. Her dedication to students extended in ways that most people never got to see. “She has no ego,” said Alper, describing what working with Schweng was like behind the scenes. “She only wants what is best for students and doesn’t care about getting credit or acclaim.”
Schweng’s willingness to go unpraised has led people to forget just how much she has done for BHS. She has moved immediately from decision to decision, so quickly taking action on the next measure to help her students that everyone else has forgotten to pause in between and appreciate her work. It will be sad to see Schweng go, but she is proud “to have been able to hire a diverse admin team that works well together, she said. Thanks to her work, BHS will be left in good hands, and her team will continue her administrative legacy. Nonetheless, Schweng will be sorely missed. BHS is losing an incredible principal. Among many, Alper commends her work, saying, “She may be the most talented administrator I have ever seen, at any