Today in letters sent to students, staff, and families, Berkeley High School (BHS) Principal Erin Schweng shared that after the end of this school year in June, she will not be returning to Berkeley High School. After a 22-year career with BUSD, Ms. Schweng wrote she has “decided to move on to a completely different chapter in life.”
Ms. Schweng began her work in BUSD in 1998 as a teacher at Rosa Parks Elementary and later served as a District Math Coach. She then joined the staff at Longfellow Middle School where she taught mathematics and AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), a college readiness class for students historically underrepresented in higher education.
After two years with the BUSD Evaluation and Assessment Department and Professional Development office, Ms. Schweng joined the Berkeley High administrative team in January of 2014 as a Vice Principal. In June of 2016 she was promoted to the position of Executive Vice Principal, and then became Principal of Berkeley High in January of 2017. She led Berkeley High through the restructuring of the freshman U9 program, a successful WASC accreditation, and many challenges, not the least of which is the current COVID-19 crisis. When asked about her work at BHS, Principal Schweng said that the students continue to inspire her: “Whether adapting to this crisis, or articulating their concerns about local, national or global issues, I am deeply proud that our students have found ways to be vibrant and positive and active on behalf of each other and the community.”
Estella Hemp, a Berkeley High senior and representative to the School Board, was reached by cell phone while she was out volunteering to make deliveries to at-risk community members. When informed of the news of Ms. Schweng’s departure, Estella exclaimed, “Oh no! I’m so sad to hear this! Ms. Schweng is the definition of the person who gives her all to her job – she is genuinely there for any student who comes to her; she has persevered despite some really tough and unfair situations and always puts the needs of the students and community first.”
Berkeley High teacher Hasmig Minassian shared her gratitude for Erin Schweng’s leadership, which she describes as leading with grace, “with the human experience at the center, and the students’ needs first. She consistently maintains curiosity, seeks wisdom from those around her, and thoughtfully communicates each decision to the school community. She holds herself and others to a courageous ethical code, modeling a steady and trusting environment for all of her colleagues. She accepted her leadership position under a tumultuous time for the district, not to mention the nation, and her steady hand deftly continues to navigate rough waters, even today.”
“Her empathy helps to set a tone at the high school, as does her positivity and her belief in the young people she serves,” said Superintendent Brent Stephens in a letter to the BHS community today. He credited Ms. Schweng with a legacy that includes strong support for students, teachers and staff; responsive communications; and building a cohesive administrative team.
Dr. Stephens has appointed Assistant Principal Juan Raygoza to serve as Interim Principal during the 2020-2021 school year. In January of 2021, the District will begin a formal and inclusive process to select a new permanent principal for BHS. In his role as Interim Principal, Mr. Raygoza will guide students and staff through the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, whether this means we are back to school with social distancing conventions, or using some new combination of distance learning and limited on-campus time. “In the face of so much uncertainty, Mr. Raygoza is someone well-known to the BHS community, and who can help us find a measure of stability – something we all need right now.”
Mr. Raygoza expressed a deep admiration for Ms. Schweng’s long-standing commitment to Berkeley Unified and her leadership at Berkeley High School. “I have learned many lessons from Erin during my three years working with her as Vice Principal. I am honored to step into the Interim Principal role. It will be critical to approach next school year with compassion and support for the basic human needs and safety of all of our students and their families as well as of our staff members. I look forward to working collaboratively and creatively to educate our students.”