By Susan McCabe
For Vashon Island School District
A Vashon High School (VHS) alumni himself, school counselor Paul Peretti will close out his career this month with satisfaction and, he said, “a real feeling of legacy, commitment to the community and having returned something back to the community.”
During his six-year tenure at VHS, Peretti has maintained a belief in the potential of each individual student. Each child has an inherent desire to learn, he said, but helping find the best path forward for them is often the greatest challenge.
Peretti spent his VHS days in search of necessary resources for students. For instance, for those students in search of post-high school vocational training, living on an island can be a major hindrance, he said — the commute is simply too much for most students.
The pandemic has brought even more challenges to Peretti’s last year and a half of work.
“Even though we have added some highly effective people to assist us in our support of students suffering from social/emotional challenges, the needs surpass our resources,” he said. “This was most certainly amplified this year under COVID restrictions.”
Peretti takes seriously the public education mandate to teach every child but said that VISD rises to the challenge.
“What makes VHS such a great school is our ability to make this reach, where every student is recognized and appreciated for their unique self,” he said. “We have an amazing staff that takes this mandate seriously. There is great pedagogy here, but also a heart for all students.”
Peretti said the high caliber of teachers at VHS as well as the school’s small size allows genuine intimacy among students and faculty.
“The joy I feel is every day when I walk the halls during class,” he said. “I’m likely biased, but our students have a beauty about them that touches me. During class, they’re attentive and focused — for the most part — on what their teacher or fellow student is saying.”
How does he feel about closing out his 24-year high school counseling career? (He spent 18 years at Juanita High School in Kirkland prior to taking the job at VHS.)
“There aren’t a lot of endings in life where you feel good about it,” he said. “I can only think of graduation and retirement. This time for me feels similar to graduating from college or grad school — that mix of anticipation and excitement.”
Post-retirement, Peretti plans to spend time contemplating a life well lived and how precious every moment has been. He’s looking forward to traveling, time with friends and family.
Danny Rock, VHS Principal and Peretti’s latest boss, said that Peretti’s lifetime commitment of service leaves a legacy of compassion, advocacy, and quiet consistency for the thousands of students and families who have crossed his path.
“Paul races over the finish line of his career in a full sprint, not losing one step in his efforts to transition students to their post-high school plans,” Rock said. “Vashon Island has been the lucky recipient of Paul’s kindness, hard work, and generational presence and will continue to have it for years to come. Thank you, Paul.”