Goodbye, Mr. Passarella


Steven Baer and Matt Arenas

There are few people more recognizable than John Passarella within the Riverside-Brookfield community. His signature smile, daily lunch room standup routine, emphatic emotions and overall passion for RB, uniquely characterize the charismatic assistant principle. Passarella truly embodies the idea of school spirit. Since being hired by the school in 2004, Passarella has approached his work each day with a childlike enthusiasm. Although he has thoroughly enjoyed his experience at RB, it has come time for the celebrated assistant principle to move on to the next step in his life.

However, to properly tell the story of John Passarella’s exodus, it’s imperative to recount his journey to RB, and what made him who he is.

Passarella began his affair with RB 12 years ago, when his son was a student at RB. Long before he was on staff at RB, he was the same RBHS fanatic. “I used to be this crazy guy in the sidelines screaming before football games and wrestling matches,” Passarella said.  “That was before they knew me as the administrator so it was okay to scream.”

Passarella always wanted to become more involved with the school. While he was teaching at Komarek Middle School in North Riverside, Passarella was in communication with then RB superintendent Jack Baldermann. “During that year I would constantly talk to superintendent principal Jack Baldermann about possibility of transferring over. He would always say, ‘Yes it’s always a possibility.’”

After somewhat of a standstill in communication, RB had informed Passarella that they weren’t going to be hiring him for the upcoming school year.  ”No problem,” Passarella said. “It will be my second year at Komarek. I’ll enjoy it, and move forward.”

However, unbeknownst to him that wouldn’t be the last he heard from RB. “While on vacation I get a phone call that the board of education [had] changed their mind,” Passarella said.  “They said they wanted to fill the slot before school starts and that they’d like to offer me an opportunity to be interviewed by MR. Lehotsky. I said, ‘For what year?’ He said, ‘This year– But you got to make a decision now. I decided to take the interview. ”

Passarella was offered a one year position on RB’s staff and his future hinged on his performance in that first year. “That was my interview. They saw what I was about, and in the end I was hired… The rest is history.”

In his decade plus run at RB, Passarella has had a great impact on the students of RB. ”I need to be close and interact in their lives,” Passarella said.  “My job is to mess with kids’ lives and have a little fun.”

Because of his immense involvement in the RB community Passarella is, to many, the quintessential face of RB. However, he doesn’t see it that way. “I was just part of a team of solid teachers. I didn’t take the sword and lead the way. I just battled with those who were here before I even got here. My goal was to enforce what was already being done”

After 12 years serving the school Passarella has decided it’s finally time to graduate. Although saying goodbye is bittersweet, deep down he knows it’s time to let go and live the rest of his life. “There’s a part of me that doesn’t want it to end,” Passarella said. “I recently lost a younger brother and it’s a reminder you [must] live life. Maybe it’s time for a change–I’ve been doing this for 33 years.”

For the average person, 12 years of doing the same job would, no doubt, become a bit methodical. However, John Passarella is not your average guy. He has reveled in his work and lived every day to the fullest. “I haven’t gone to work in 33 years. This is my life, not my job. I’ve worked for some wonderful staff and students–None better than this.”

Now, in the closing days of Passarella is filled with grace for the incredible opportunity.

“Every mistake and decision I’ve made brought me here. I was very fortunate to choose a career that became my life, not just a job–doesn’t happen all the time. I don’t know why it happened to me. I feel very lucky.”