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Celebrating a 56-Year Career

Paul Cummins has devoted his life to creating opportunities for children from all backgrounds to have access to quality education that engages them, respects them, and inspires them to develop a lifelong passion for learning.

In 1971, he co-founded Crossroads School in Santa Monica and built it into one of the most successful educational institutions in Los Angeles and a national model for innovative, independent schools.

The Crossroads curriculum is based upon Paul’s philosophy that students need arts, personal development, community service/action, physical education, and outdoor/environmental education alongside the traditional subjects of math, science, foreign language, history, and English. Crossroads demonstrates that students educated in this manner could not only achieve results comparable to any prep school students, they could also enjoy the process and cultivate creativity, self-awareness, well-being, and social conscience.

During his tenure at Crossroads, Cummins visited many of the public schools in Los Angeles. In the overcrowded classrooms, the overworked teachers, the frustrated children, and the lack of arts education, he saw a dire need for schools where all children, regardless of background or economic status, could create the very fabric of their lives by awakening their imaginations, passions, and curiosities through art, music, dance, and sculpture. His observations deepened his conviction that education should be a joyful process of discovery.

In 1995, Cummins stepped down as Headmaster of Crossroads and formed New Visions Foundation (now Coalition for Engaged Education) to offer opportunities for Engaged Education to all youth. The first venture was New Roads School, a diverse, K-12 independent school in Santa Monica that has a deep commitment to social justice. New Roads devotes 40% of its tuition budget to need-based student financial aid, guaranteeing access to students from a wide socioeconomic array.

Cummins has since implemented a number of innovative programs to help children at risk. These include:

  • Three charter schools in economically challenged neighborhoods in Los Angeles, one of which received the only single-sex charter from LAUSD, as it serves pregnant and parenting teenage girls.
  • A program that places foster children and youth in carefully selected schools in order to provide them with educational stability through college and beyond.
  • An after-school program for incarcerated youth at Camp David Gonzales that has successfully redirected many of its students into independent schools, colleges, and/or the mainstream workforce and has significantly reduced the recidivism rate among its students.
  • Helping the community of Lennox, located in one of California’s highest poverty areas, by partnering with the Lennox School district and local agencies.

Dr. Cummins has published four books on education, including Proceed With Passion: Engaging Students in Meaningful Education (2004), and Two Americas, Two Educations: Funding Quality Schools for all Students (2007), both published by Red Hen Press. His most recent book of essays, Why Poetry? Reflections on Poetry, Writing and Culture, was published in 2009 by Xlibris. His most recent books include his professional autobiography, Confessions of a Headmaster (Red Hen Press, October 2015) and Engaged Education: New Visions for Success in Learning (forthcoming)...

Dr. Cummins received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Stanford University, his MAT from Harvard, and his doctorate from the University of Southern California. He has served as a trustee on over 20 boards.

Cummins and his wife Mary Ann reside in Santa Monica. They have four daughters and five grandchildren.