Above, from left, School Board Member Dr. Richard Vladovic, Principal Steven Skrumbis and wife, Christine, and Local District Superintendent Christopher Downing. 

The principal of Taper Avenue Elementary School was hailed as a hero on Tuesday for performing life-saving CPR when the mother of a student collapsed in the office of the San Pedro campus.

Steven Skrumbis was honored during a meeting of the Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Committee, receiving a standing ovation from those in the audience.

“You are a true, life-changing hero,” said Dr. Richard Vladovic, the board member who chairs the committee and whose district includes Taper Elementary.

But Skrumbis downplayed his actions, saying he had acted instinctively on Monday morning when he walked into the office and saw the woman lying on the floor, not breathing and without a pulse. Trained several years ago in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, he immediately dropped to the ground and began chest compressions while an employee dialed 911.

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Taper Avenue Elementary Principal Steven Skrumbis and Instructional Director Gina Ellis.

“It was really just part of my job,” said Skrumbis, who taught second and fifth grades at Taper before becoming principal there three years ago. “Before instruction comes safety. I’m just blessed that it worked out for the parent and kids.”

With paramedics providing instructions over the phone – and the woman’s daughter standing nearby – Skrumbis continued CPR while Instructional Director Gina Ellis, who had been visiting classrooms with the principal, counted off the beats.

The woman briefly roused herself after about 20 compressions, but then lost consciousness again. Skrumbis continued the rhythmic pumping, Ellis said, at one point telling the woman, “Stay with me! Stay with me!”

“It was so surreal,” Ellis said. “I was just so proud of the way he went into action.”

The woman was conscious by the time paramedics arrived and transported her to a local hospital. Skrumbis said he spoke later to family members, who reported that she was alert and undergoing tests.

The woman’s daughter chose to go back to class after the ordeal, which Ellis said speaks to the feeling of safety at Taper.

Despite the accolades, which included a certificate from the Board of Education, Skrumbis said he felt uncomfortable in the spotlight.

“‘Hero’ is such a special, big word,” he said. “I was just there to help.”