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Dr. Paul Suzuki with students from South Shores Magnet School for the Visual & Performing Arts. (photo: courtesy Dr. Paul Suzuki)

Dr. Paul Suzuki has served as the principal at South Shores Magnet School for the Visual & Performing Arts for 18 years and is retiring in June. 

My kids attended another local school, but I knew many families with children in South Shores. I met Dr. Suzuki once. One night, my young son had a Scout meeting at South Shores. My son was curious, and, at some point, decided to pull the fire alarm to see what would happen. 

I was horrified as the alarm blared throughout the school. Seemingly out of nowhere, Dr. Suzuki came running into the auditorium with a smile on his face. He laughed, looked at my worried son, and reassured us that it was okay. It was a great first impression and illuminated the positive climate he creates at South Shores.

As he prepares for retirement, I asked Dr. Suzuki some questions about his time at South Shores and his future plans. The interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Describe your time at South Shores.

I began my career at South Shores in 1990, teaching grades 4th, 5th, and 6th. Back then, I taught black and white photography using those old-fashioned enlargers for one of my mini art classes and even transformed the classroom into a darkroom. For the upper-grade musical production, my art class was set building and stage crew. Later, I served as the magnet coordinator, then as assistant principal, and as principal at other schools.

Some years later, it was such a blessing to return to South Shores as principal. South Shores is my second home, and I will miss being at this beautiful school every day.   

What makes South Shores Magnet School for the Visual & Performing Arts special?

During my 18 years as principal, South Shores was awarded the following prestigious awards: National Blue Ribbon Award, California Exemplary Arts Education Award, California Distinguished School Award, and California School Boards Association Golden Bell Award.   

In addition to our strong academic program, the visual and performing arts make our school even more special. The arts experiences help to foster our students’ confidence, creativity, and well-roundedness to be better prepared for middle school and beyond.

Our parents, teachers, staff, administration, students, alumni students, and alumni parents take ownership of our school, feel responsible for its well-being, and do everything possible to keep it sailing in a successful direction. Wonderful traditions have continued since it was established as a magnet school in 1980.     

What makes a good principal? 

Many things make a good principal, but a few would include establishing a balance with student discipline and creating a place where students feel loved, valued, and cared for. All decisions are made in the best interest of children. It is important to support the teachers and build positive relationships with all stakeholders that create a warm, welcoming, and safe school environment. Not to micro-manage, but rather be a principal who supports and inspires faculty, staff members, and students to feel comfortable in carrying out leadership roles and in producing creative ideas to improve our school.

Describe your most rewarding experience at South Shores. 

I have had countless rewarding experiences with teachers, staff, students, and parents. The ones that stand out have been where I feel very proud of something a student accomplished, said, or did, whether in class, a performance, or in various school events. 

What are your plans for retirement? 

I want to enjoy relaxation away from stress, travel, spend more time with friends and family, and volunteer.

Any parting comments? 

I will forever treasure everything about South Shores. I will miss everyone more than they will ever know. spt

photo of san pedro today author Jennifer Marquez

Jennifer Marquez

Jennifer Marquez can be reached at  jennifertmarquez@yahoo.com  and @jenntmqz on Twitter and Instagram.