When the last graduate of the Class of 2015 at Riverside-Brookfield High School crosses the stage at the graduation ceremony, it will mark a graduation of another kind for Assistant Principal John Passarella. 

Passarella, who has spent the last 12 years at RBHS, will be performing his last official duty at the school before beginning another phase in his life’s journey.

One of eight children raised in Melrose Park, Passarella attended Southern Illinois University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. His education continued with a master’s degree from Lewis University where he became a certified administrator. 

After working for a year as a substitute an art teacher following graduation, he spent 19 years at Lindop School in Broadview and one year as principal at a school in Worth, before coming to Komarek School in North Riverside, where many of us first got to know him. 

From there, Passarella was hired at RBHS and eventually assumed the position as assistant principal from the late Bill Lehotsky, but not before the two men forged a friendship that was not only bound by their interest in education but in a deep sense of caring for students as a whole. Lehotsky had a profound effect on Passarella’s time at RBHS.

While he misses the classroom, Passarella oversees all student affairs and everything in the building that is student-related, giving him a chance to interact with more students. It is a demanding job, one he says could not be done without having a good team and staff around him. 

He sees his position as an opportunity and not necessarily a disciplinary position, one where he can help students who may not always make the best choices. Passarella said he feels blessed and fortunate to have witnessed the growth in so many students, although there were days that seemed as if he were going through an obstacle course.

In our conversation, the words “blessed” and “honored” came out often as he related what he says have been the best 12 years of his life. As for life after RBHS, Passarella says he hasn’t decided yet. It won’t be in education, but it will be someplace that can benefit from a man who truly cares.

Recognition for Mr. Passarella thus far have included a scholarship in his name instituted by the Riverside Brookfield Educational Foundation and an honor from the Riverside Police Department.

To use Passarella’s words, the school and the community have been blessed and honored by your years of service. Your journey through life will continue, but you will always have the heart of an RB Bulldog.