Robinson announces he will retire in June

February 7, 2019 — by Alexandra Li and Amy Tang

Principal Paul Robinson takes part in a recent Quad Day.

Search for successor will begin soon

On Jan. 29, principal Paul Robinson sent out an email titled “Special Message,” announcing his plan to retire at the end of the 2018-2019 school year, after seven years as principal of Saratoga High and 40 years as an educator.

“It’s just time,” Robinson said. “It wasn’t any one thing specifically, but it feels right. I’ve still got some living I want to do so this just gives me an opportunity to do it.”

Looking into the future, Robinson, 62, said he doesn’t have any clearly set plans, but he aims to partake in volunteer work or consulting work for schools and communities to continue his passion for helping young people grow and develop.

His wife, Robin, the principal of Springer Elementary in Los Altos, plans to continue her job for at least a couple more years, and Robinson sees himself spending a lot more time with family, especially in his role as grandfather. While he owns a home in San Diego, where he spent most of his career, he plans to live in the local area for the foreseeable future.

“This school has become my home in many ways, and I enjoy it too much and it’s a big part of my life,” Robinson said. “I still plan to pop in whenever they need help with anything and come to events and concerts and plays and games because it’d be hard to cut that off and go cold turkey.”

Throughout his years in education, Robinson says that  he’s gained a better perspective and understanding of the younger generation. Rather than seeing teenagers as rebellious spirits who are overly attached to their cell phones, he sees “tremendous heart and potential.” He believes that today’s youth are capable of fixing many problems and admires their passion for serving the community.

“What I’ve always been encouraged by is the human spirit and the ability to come together and make really good things happen,” Robinson said. “I hope I’ve left behind the idea that my generation will hopefully continue to support your dreams and make sure that those dreams happen.”

According to junior George Bian, Robinson has done just that for the school, carrying “positive vibes [that can] brighten any student’s day. As a leader, he empowers and inspires students to strive for their best.”

Reminiscing on Robinson’s appearances at school events such as football games or Movember, even after just having had back surgery two years ago, Bian said that Robinson has shown him what true leadership means, and that he’d one day like to be a leader in the mold of the principal.

Kerry Mohnike, a longtime English teacher at the school, became an assistant principal in 2012 in the same year Robinson came on board at the school. She said that his qualities of kindness and patience along with his ability to lead by example have contributed to his talent for dealing with complicated situations.

“When emotions get high, you can always rely on him to keep balance and go back to the core belief that people are good,” Mohnike said. “Knowing that all people have values and that all people are worthy of goodness helps us know that even if someone is misbehaving, it’s probably coming from some other place, so we try help people through that kind of thing.”

Specifically, Mohnike recalls Robinson’s first year, when the school endured the suicide of a sophomore girl named Audrie Pott and related national news coverage about the events that contributed to her death. During this challenging time, Mohnike said that Robinson was an “experienced, guiding hand” who helped keep the school on track.

Mohnike is grateful for the support and teaching she received from Robinson as a role model when he hired her in June of 2012 to move from teaching to administration for the 2012-2013 school year.

“For him, it’s not just a job, and you can appreciate the amount of time and energy and angst that goes into that kind of work,” Mohnike said.

Physics teacher Kirk Davis praised Robinson for encouraging teachers to try new things in the classroom by providing necessary resources or money, and also for acting as a kind of buffer between teachers and occasionally disgruntled parents.

“He’s defended teachers really well against parents, and he’s been a good advocate for teachers in general,” Davis said. “He is very reasonable and hears both sides of the argument.”

In addition, Robinson frequently volunteers to join field trips as a chaperone.

Chemistry and AP Biology teacher Cheryl Lenz recalls his support in making a field trip to Catalina happen. He was the sole male chaperone, and Lenz believes that his involvement allowed the trip to become an annual event.

Robinson has always been active the community, and Mohnike said that the community and students respect his involvement and his passion for fostering young people into exceptional adults.

“He wants to have a dance even if only 50 kids show up because he thinks those 50 kids need a place to be, and I think that’s an important aspect of who he is and what I’ve learned about him,” Mohnike said.

English 11 teacher Natasha Ritchie said Robinson is the most empathetic principal she has ever worked with, offering unwavering support through staff members’ personal struggles.

“I’ve always appreciated how he’s a human being and how he’s a person aside from all his administrative duties,” Ritchie said. “I think one of his absolute best qualities is that he legitimately cares.”

Although he has announced his retirement that begins in June, Robinson said that he and the administration still have a lot to accomplish in the upcoming weeks and hope to set things in place by finishing strong. His main focus is finishing the construction of a student center in the 800 wing and finding ways to make it impactful for students.

During his time as principal, Robinson has worked with architects and construction workers, spending about once a week in construction meetings since 2015 to complete multiple major construction projects, such as the making of the sports plaza entrance that leads into Benny Pierce Field, returfing numerous fields, redoing the school’s Wi-Fi, reroofing some areas and completing the multimillion-dollar, state-of-the-art music building that was the centerpiece of the Measure E bond.

He also hopes to complete some curriculum changes, introducing classes like AP Art History and bringing back creative writing to accommodate changing student interest in electives. During his time here, Robinson has focused heavily on helping students succeed both academically and personally, implementing numerous support systems for students such as CASSY, the tutoring center, the SEL program, and soon, the new student center.

“We’ve still got some things we’re hoping to work on so we’re not shutting down. We’re not stopping. We’re still moving,” Robinson said.

Robinson assumes the process to select the next principal will be similar to his own experience. The district board is putting together a search committee and will send out inquires across the nation to garner interest and bring in top candidates to be interviewed. Robinson also recalls how members of the school community visited him in San Diego where he was working as a principal and talked with people there to get a better idea of who he was.

Robinson is excited to see what the next principal can offer to the school.

“I think I’ve gone about as far as I can, and now somebody with a new energy and a different view of things can come in and build on that and go the next step further,” Robinson said. “The person that takes this position next is really going to be able to do some incredible things with this school.”


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