As the new school year approached, Berkeley High School found itself without a complete administrative team to take on the tall order of leading our massive student body. In need of a complete staff, Principal Sam Pasarow and other staff members began the process of interviewing and assessing potential new admin in the following positions: BIHS Vice Principal, college counselor, and Dean of Students. Individuals were interviewed by a panel of about ten BHS staff members including teachers, administrators, classified staff and Mr. Pasarow. Now, as the final decisions have been made, Berkeley High welcomes new members: Shannon Fierro, BIHS Vice Principal, Melanie Aguas, College Counselor, and Kiernan Rok, Dean of Students, to the school’s administration.
Ms. Fierro first encountered Mr. Pasarow and various other BHS staff during her panel interview. Prior to her involvement at BHS, Fierro received her masters in international education, studied in France, worked in the Netherlands, taught in Japan, and has traveled through five continents. As the new BIHS Vice Principal, she believes deeply in the values an international education can provide.
“I feel it has the potential to make us wiser, kinder, and more tolerant,” says Fierro. “I wanted to work with a diverse, urban student population taking on learning from a global perspective.”
With that said, Fierro is more than ready to collaborate with student leaders and the BIHS faculty in supporting open dialogue and actions to create a stronger sense of community and belonging for all BIHS students, especially historically marginalized students, such as those of African and Latino descent,” says Fierro. “I want BIHS to be a place where all voices count and all BIHS students feel that their teachers and peers respect and support them.”
While the role of the Vice Principal is to oversee the general workings of BHS, the role of the College Counselor is to work with each student individually, a task that Melanie Aguas will be taking on this year. Aguas has a lot of experience in counseling, having counseled at the middle and high school levels. Specifically at BHS, she aims to “positively contribute to the school’s college-going culture.” Aguas explained, “ … I look forward to making connections with students and helping motivate them to achieve their fullest potential.”
The final open spot of Dean of Students was a harder role to fill. Former Dean of Students, Ardarius McDonald, became the principal at Berkeley Technology Academy, leaving Berkeley High in need of a new Dean. Before coming to Berkeley High, Kiernan Rok knew Mr. Pasarow from having worked together at Edna Brewer Middle School. After discovering his passion for teaching, Rok decided to go back to school to earn a teaching credential, becoming a special education and inclusion teacher for five years, then went back to school again to earn an administrative credential. For the past two years, he was an Assistant Principal, also at Edna Brewer.
The Dean of Students at Berkeley High is responsible for On Campus Intervention, which provides support to students who may be experiencing a variety of issues and challenges.
“As an educator, my most rewarding experiences have been working directly with students and supporting them through difficult situations in school and life, so I was attracted to this position because it allows me to do more of what I love,” expressed Rok. Aware of the racism and sexual harassment incidents that have taken place on our campus, Rok aims to help to foster a positive school culture. “I’m interested in supporting the various student groups and initiatives that are responding to these issues and working to make Berkeley High a safe place for all students,” said Rok.
Recruiting new staff at schools like BHS — unique from other schools of similar size and caliber —– can be nerve-racking for the existing staff, students, and even the incomers themselves. However, with their prior experience and initiative to cater to Berkeley High students’ best interest, Ms. Fierro, Ms. Aguas, and Mr. Rok showcase nothing but promising and positive outcomes.