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In Pasi We Trust

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Pasi interacts with students at lunch

Pasi interacts with students at lunch

Alison Jones

Alison Jones

Pasi interacts with students at lunch

Jessie Moyer and Grace Stroup, Sentry Staff Reporters

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For 20 years this school has had the honor of having Dr. Raymond Pasi as principal. 1997 was his first year, and 2017 will be his last. Pasi has witnessed not only the building change, but the population too: with each new year comes a new group of students and staff. Even so, Pasi’s dedication and love for this school has remained the same. His leadership will leave a lasting impact as his core beliefs of respect and kindness have trickled down into the lives of teachers and students alike

Surprisingly enough, Pasi didn’t always plan to be a principal. He started out teaching, but later went into counselling. When he was invited by a principal friend to apply to become an assistant principal, he made a decision that would change his next 29 years.

Since that day, Pasi has lived as a principal—and for the vast majority of those days, Pasi has been the principal at Yorktown. Luckily, he liked Yorktown the second he stepped into the building.

“I found everyone [at Yorktown to be] very friendly. I found people very supportive, I found the students very talented. I’ve enjoyed and have had fun since I’ve been here,” Pasi said.

The building has undergone a lot of physical changes and a couple of facelifts under Pasi, as the staff has changed and new material has been added to curriculum. Pasi has been present for many new developments in education, including the the county’s introduction of smart boards, laptops and standard based grading into the school. Even so, he is hopeful that, at the core, this institution remains similar to what it has been for the last 20 years: a place where students are respected, supported and encouraged to achieve success in whatever their passions are.  

“I just hope for the continuation in some degree of the philosophy I described, that this place will always be a positive, humane, respectful, encouraging, challenging place,” Pasi said.

He has also witnessed changes that go beyond just the surface of the building and curriculum. He believes that the school has become more aware of its shortcomings and more eager to improve, something he values as a principal.

“I would say the spirit of Yorktown hasn’t changed so much, I think we’re … less self-satisfied… we have a lot of talent and ability and we have to watch being self-satisfied with it. I think we are better at that now and more introspective as an institution, more critical of ourselves, … but we have to be mindful that we’re a school for everyone and we’re more mindful of that now….” Pasi said.

As the school continues to change and develop, Pasi believes his attitude towards his job has changed as well.

“[The] biggest thing I would say [of how I’ve changed] is I’ve learned the importance of trusting the good people you work with and not feeling like you have to have your hand in everything that is going on,” Pasi said.

The staff are grateful for Pasi’s trust in their abilities; his confidence in his colleagues has truly translated to a warm and supportive environment.

“I appreciate the fact that he treats us like professionals and gives us freedom and has confidence that we know what we are doing. I would like to thank him for having faith we do our jobs, and also for creating the leadership center, because that is is half of my job,” Minority Achievement Coordinator and Director for the Center for Leadership and Public Service Shari Benites said.

Pasi stands as a role model for the staff and students alike as he leads with compassion, forgiveness and respect. He introduced Social Emotional Learning (SEL), and the school environment has prospered because of it.

“The foundation of what I believe is that you have to treat people well and with respect, with regard, with encouragement in a positive way if you really want to get any substantial learning done because if students are sitting in front of you feeling angry and disrespected, they’re not going to learn as much as they could … so it’s very important to me that the people I work with, the students, my colleagues on the faculty, feel respected and supported and appreciated,” Pasi said.

This same positive spirit has made its way into every aspect of the school. He helped obtain the funding for the Center for Leadership and Public Service, and Benites credits Pasi’s philosophy on creating an inclusive and warm environment for every student.

“He came in and he had a vision of the SEL and R.O.C.S (Respecting Others, the Community, and Self) and I think that was a good thing, because Yorktown has always had a high academic focus, but he came in and really stressed the idea that we don’t just want smart and highly accomplished kids, we want nice and kind kids as well, and I think that has improved the climate here to some extent,” Benites said.

The staff is thankful for Pasi’s guiding hand and positive spirit that has led them to be the best that they can be.

“He’s a supportive leader who assumes the best in people and provides guidance for those he supervises and a positive atmosphere for the remainder of the school,” Activities Director Michael Krulfeld said.

“He has a really good attitude. He is just sort of like the school’s mentor. He is someone that sets that example for everyone, even the teachers,” senior Julia Sachs said.

Pasi’s tenure as principal has included countless enjoyable moments, making it difficult to single out one. He has loved the school from the start and each day is just as enjoyable as the the next. As for challenging moments, Pasi was candid about situations that were not as easy to deal with.

“I think for a principal there are always difficult moments when someone makes a bad decision that you have to deal with the aftermath of … so there have been occasions where that has happened, as is true with any other high school; and those [occasions] I’ve always found difficult, you like things to go well for everybody and sometimes they don’t,” Pasi said.

Pasi works with students every single day and has for the last 20 years. He has developed a wide understanding of the student body as it has changed and grown in size. Even so, one maxim has remained true for him:

“How incredibly talented young people can be and how many skills and abilities in my lifetime I wish I had worked on to develop myself and did not…,” Pasi said.

Planning for the future is something that Pasi has not had time for, as the pace of this institution never ceases. Trying to plan for days with no schedule and no meetings is daunting, and as for Pasi’s retirement plans, he does not know specifically what he will do but is excited to see what happens.

“I teach a class at GW [George Washington University] at the graduate school; I’ve taught there for 18 years. I’m going to teach that in the fall but other than that I haven’t agreed to do anything else. I don’t know, it’s hard for me to be in this position, so busy, and figure out what I’m going to do when I don’t have this anymore, but I’m hopeful that it will all work out,” Pasi said.

As his 20 years comes to an end, Pasi’s transition to retirement will be far from easy. When asked what he will miss the most, his answer was clear.

“The people. No question, the students, the faculty, I will miss that a lot; it will be very difficult,” Pasi said.

Yorktown’s next principal has big shoes to fill as Pasi has set the bar high through his dedication and love for the school. Pasi’s advice to the next principal truly shows the honor he feels as principal.

“Everyday, be thankful you’re in such a fine institution with with such fine people; never forget it, even when challenges come up and problems arise, be thankful that you’re in such a good place, because you are,” Pasi said.
Pasi’s presence in Yorktown is hard to miss. Walk through the front doors in the morning,  go to the cafeteria during lunch or buy a ticket to a football game and you will see him standing there, greeting everyone he sees. Whether it be a compliment on an outfit, a wish good luck before a game or just a simple hello, Pasi is constantly interacting with the student body he loves so dearly. It is no question that he will be missed, but his legacy is so deeply ingrained in the foundation of the institution that no matter the changes and the new students that enter the doors, Pasi’s mark will forever be left on the outside of 5200 Yorktown Boulevard.

YHS Community Thoughts

 

“I have had students at Yorktown for the past five years. Consistently throughout that time, Dr. Pasi could always be found, every day, cheerfully greeting students upon their arrival to school. His demeanor created a welcoming environment for students and parents alike, one which I believe helped make the students comfortable and proud to attend Yorktown High School (YHS). His steady presence demonstrated a quiet leadership that will be sorely missed and difficult to replace. Thank you, Dr. Pasi!” – Shirley Brothwell

“I have been with Ray for his 20 years at Yorktown. He is the embodiment of ‘ROCS’ [Respect Others, Community, and Self] and all that it stands for! His keen sense of humor and meticulous use of the English language will truly be missed.” -Harold Andersen, Yorktown Parent and Mathematics teacher

“I have dropped in at Yorktown only a handful of times over the last four years and was pleasantly surprised to see Dr. Pasi walking around on a few of those occasions, clearly establishing a presence and assuring the school was functioning in good order. I loved walking through the gate at football games and seeing none other than the principal taking tickets, looking into each attendee’s eyes and welcoming us. At the baseball game last week, I sat down in the stands and noticed the spectator on my left was Dr. Pasi himself.  It was wonderful to see him and chat before he went to spend some time at the girls’ soccer game. These are marks of the thoroughly engaged and committed leader that Dr. Pasi has been to our community.  Our family stands richly supported by having gotten our student through Yorktown under Dr. Pasi’s wise, firm and caring watch.  We are so very grateful to the rich experience that he led Yorktown in providing our student. Thank you, Dr. Pasi, for your dedication and hard work that has benefited many thousands of young people through the years!” – Elizabeth Weist

“Dr. Pasi is one of the kindest people I have ever met. He has a great sense of humor, gets about one million things done in a day and remains focused on helping other people. I’m so impressed by the connection he has forged with Yorktown students and the way he inspires people to be more compassionate. He will be missed.” -Kathy Mimberg, PTA President

“He always greets students in the morning at the front door with a smile and, if they are in the mood, a handshake. He treats everyone like an honored guest in his home. To me, it shows a humanity that set the tone for the day and the school.” -Helen Payne

“We have had two daughters go through Yorktown and were impressed with Dr. Pasi from day one. He is seemingly a constant presence at the YHS entrance greeting students and parents alike and making them feel welcome. He seeks out feedback and constructive criticism from students and parents every year, which he doesn’t have to do and yet he does. His comments at every YHS event I have been to and in every email he has sent to parents have been wise, constructive, honest and uplifting. Dr Pasi’s friendly, low-drama style mixed with his high intelligence and wise experience will be much missed by all at YHS.” -Lori Rottenberg-Hanclich

“I am one of the thousands of faceless parents of students who attended Yorktown while you were Principal.  And while I have never interacted directly with you, except for an occasional greeting, I have noted with appreciation what a wonderful principal you have been — whether greeting students at a basketball game, welcoming students as they arrive or giving a very moving speech at the NHS induction ceremony.    While I can only imagine the feelings of those whom you have worked with through the years, from a parent of one former and one current Yorktown student, there is an overwhelming feeling of sadness as you leave and at an era gone by.  Your decency, integrity, and caring nature will carry you in whatever new endeavors you undertake.  Good luck, all the best wishes!” – Susan Lee

“The most significant positive impact Dr. Pasi had on my work as an educator during my time at Yorktown was to engender a “we” mindset in the way I communicate. At first, I confess I found the idea of referring to what “we” wanted or needed as a school to be linguistically awkward and distant. However, as I worked alongside him, I came to understand that the unintentional side effect of this mental shift was to be more thoughtful about speaking on behalf of the school. It is a thoughtful mindset that I continue to employ in my work here at Discovery… As for his impact on the school, and in terms of positive impact, I would say that his hands-off approach to administration has given individual faculty members the latitude to take risks and push boundaries (both their own personal comfort boundaries and some traditional institutional boundaries), and certainly I believe that students have had the right to express themselves and behave in a very wide diversity of ways.” -Keith Reeves, former Yorktown staff member

 

 

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In Pasi We Trust