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LAUSD All-Star Hero: Principal in San Pedro revives collapsed parent

Mike Szymanski | May 24, 2017

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Board member Richard Vladovic honors Principal Steven Skrumbis standing with wife Christine and District South Superintendent Chris Downing.

Monday was supposed to be an easy day. State tests were over, the school year was winding down, and Taper Avenue Elementary School was heading for a long weekend.

But as Principal Steven Skrumbis and his instructional director, Gina Ellis, finished their rounds touring the school just after lunch and headed back to the office, they faced an unexpected sight. There was commotion near the door, and a woman was on the ground, shaking.

“She was not breathing, and I saw the principal jump into action,” Ellis said. “It was so surreal.”

The principal began CPR and Ellis was on the phone with 911 — they coached him to keep pushing on the woman’s chest.

“They said, ‘Don’t stop, don’t stop,’ and he didn’t,” Ellis said. The woman began breathing again.

When the ambulance team arrived, it was clear the quick action of Principal  Skrumbis helped save the mom of one of his 700 K-5th students at their school in San Pedro.

“The mother kept telling me, ‘It’s just a chest pain, it’s just a chest pain, I’m so sorry,’” Skrumbis recalled. “She was taken to the hospital and her daughter stayed with us at the school.”

The day after the heroic gesture, the principal was handed a tissue to wipe tears from his eyes as the story was recounted by District South Superintendent Chris Downing and school board member Richard Vladovic, who lives about 60 yards from the school in the most southern end of the LA school district.

Principal Steven Skrumbis and instructional director Gina Ellis.

“You are typically as humble as ever, Principal Skrumbis,” Vladovic said, presenting a certificate of honor from the school board at a Tuesday committee meeting. “You are a true life-changing hero.”

Downing added, “He saved this woman with her husband and daughter and son watching. This is an example of the heroic action our staff takes for our stakeholders every day. He is a true hero and great representative of the super South.”

Taper Elementary is a STEAM Magnet school. Its student population is 58 percent Hispanic and African-American population and 41 percent socio-economically disadvantaged. Skrumbis has served three years as principal and taught second- and fifth-graders at the school before that. He has never had to take such serious actions to save someone. He couldn’t remember when he last did his CPR training but knew it was a long time ago.

“I didn’t think about it, it’s what we do, it’s really part of my job,” Skrumbis said. “We have to make sure we keep teachers, parents, and students safe. Before instruction comes safety. I’m just blessed that it worked out.”

The principal heard that the girl’s mother is doing well and undergoing tests.

Skrumbis’s wife, Christina, a regular volunteer at the school, accompanied him to the Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Committee meeting Tuesday morning at LA Unified’s downtown Beaudry headquarters to see him be honored as a hero.

“I’m not a hero, really,” said the principal. “Hero is such a special, big word.”

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