Retiring Renaissance principal has come a long way from his birthplace

June 22, 2011
Santa Paula News

Lorenzo Moraza

Lorenzo Moraza is retiring as principal of Renaissance High School after eight years.

Moraza had quite a journey from his childhood in Juarez, Mexico where he attended school through the sixth grade. He was born in El Paso, Texas, where his father worked in construction. He ended up in Ventura County at the age of 13 after his father traveled here with a brother-in-law a year before he moved the family here.

Moraza said the language issue was a big problem at first. When he started school everything was taught in English. He said he transferred the skills he learned in Mexico and that helped him to adapt.

He added that when construction was slow and his father didn’t have work, he and his brothers would work in the fields to help the family. “As I gained more knowledge of the language I began to get better jobs,” he said.

“Our parents continued to instill in us that school was first. We knew money was important to help the family, but we knew that our purpose and primary responsibility was to go to school.”

Moraza tells people he’s a product of the civil rights movement, so in college he focused on social work and education. At some point he saw the importance of bringing under-represented students (particularly Latino students) into the colleges.

“At that point I thought that this is what needs to happen,” he noted. “I need to share my experiences with those that have similar backgrounds. So, bilingual education became important, as did higher education. And then, getting back and helping by teaching became the goal.”

Moraza began his teaching career in Carpinteria, where he worked with the migrant education program. After a year as an assistant principal at Dos Pueblos High School in Santa Barbara Moraza returned to Carpinteria, where he stayed until 2001, working as an assistant principal and eventually as a principal.

He came to the Santa Paula Union High School District 10 years ago, working as an assistant principal at Santa Paula High School. In 2003 he was named principal at Renaissance.

The number of students graduating from Renaissance has grown over his time as principal, with 66 completing their coursework this year. People have often thought of Renaissance as the school where the bad kids have to go.

“Your schools to some extent reflect your community,” Moraza said. “So if you have delinquency in your community, you’re going to have some of that here. My job is to try to eradicate that or try to move kids away from that. The reality is that you’re going to see it from time to time. You want to be proactive and nip it as early as you can. The way you do it is that you have to make school meaningful.”

Moraza said one of his goals for retirement is to get back in shape. He added he wants to stay active with his grandchildren. He’s also a musician, and with various family members has performed for over 30 years as La Familia Moraza.

He said he would miss his time at Renaissance. He added, “It’s been a good experience. I live here and I’m involved with Latino Town Hall and we’re very much interested in education. I hope to continue to be involved in one way or another.”

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