District mourns loss of staff member

Updated Friday, Oct. 6 with details of a fundraising campaign for Jason Darling’s children.

The PUSD community is reeling after a longtime Piedmont Unified staff member and parent passed away suddenly over the weekend.

District Superintendent Hawn shared the news of District IT Specialist Jason Darling’s unexpected passing in a newsletter Monday.

It is with great sadness that I am writing to share with you that Jason Darling, District IT Specialist, died unexpectedly this weekend. Jason has served as a valuable member of our technology team since 2016. Prior to this role, Jason worked as a Paraeducator at Piedmont High School and at the Adult School.

Jason is survived by his mother Diane, his wife Kristen, and his two children, who are students in the district, Hawn said.

In an email to Piedmont Middle School families Tuesday Karyn Shipp wrote:

The PMS staff is grieving and will process Jason’s death in the coming months. His leadership, quiet strength, welcoming personality, and humor are a loss for our children and the whole community.  We will be supporting each other and our students as time goes on. 

This is a profound loss for our staff and community. At this time, we are lucky to have the care and support of our amazing counselors (including the Wellness Center team), our administrators, and our teachers. Let us all care for each other during this difficult time.

At this time, we are honoring the family’s request for privacy and will not publicly speak about it with students at school.  If you want your child to know, we encourage you to talk at home. We recognize that death and grief can be complex topics to discuss and want to share resources so you feel comfortable if/when a conversation happens at home.

Said Hawn:

Jason was instrumental in PUSD’s launch of the Connected Learning Chromebook 1:1 program, along with the district’s network improvement and technology infrastructure in the new STEAM and Theater buildings. At a time when technology became integral to education, Jason provided essential technical expertise to our students and staff. About Jason’s service, Director of Technology, Stephanie Griffin noted, “Jason brought a lot of camaraderie and teamwork to the IT Department and across the district. He was a jokester, enjoyed wearing a costume or ugly sweater to a district holiday potluck, and was also dedicated to supporting staff and students across the district.” Jason’s quiet leadership and strong sense of service to our community will be dearly missed.

From PMS: Resources for grieving

  • Make time to talk.  Let their questions be your guide as to how much information to provide. Be patient; children and youth do not readily talk about their feelings. Watch for clues they may want to talk about, such as hovering around while you do the dishes or yard work.
  • Share what you know and be truthful.  Students will discuss critical events with each other; we must provide them with the facts so that misinformation does not spread.  At the same time, respecting a family’s privacy may mean we don’t know every detail children may ask, and it’s OK to say that we don’t know when we don’t have information.
  • Give simple explanations.  Answers to questions should be brief and may need to be repeated several times. 
  • Listen.  Children need to feel that they have permission to talk.   Support them by listening attentively, encouraging questions, and accepting and validating their feelings.  There are no “wrong” feelings, and different children react differently. Allow children to have their emotions separate from yours.

Additionally, the Coalition of Grieving Students also has helpful resources that provide guidance to staff members, but it is equally beneficial to be read from a parent’s perspective too.  

How to Act and What Not to Say

Talking With Children & Initiating the Conversation

Conversations and Support Videos

As always, our Counseling Staff and PUSD Wellness Center are valuable resources for your students as needed. Encourage your student to reach out or email a Counselor team member with your concerns. 

Amy Sharp, Counselor – asharp@piedmont.k12.ca.us

Sasha Goldwasser, Counselor (M&F additional support) – sgoldwasser@piedmont.k12.ca.us

Nic Saldivar, School Psychologist – nsaldivar@piedmont.k12.ca.us

A GoFundMe campaign was organized by a Wildwood Elementary staff member Friday to raise funds to help support Jason’s children. More information is available HERE.

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