The Oak Lawn-Hometown District 123 lost a member of its family recently, former principal and superintendent Dr. James A. Paziotopoulos. Dr. Paz, as he was known to his staff and students, spent decades in the district as a school principal in Oak Lawn-Hometown School District 123 both at Kolmar School and the district’s first junior high building. He culminated his almost 50-year career when he served as Superintendent of District 123 until his retirement in 2005.
“This is certainly a sad moment for the entire District 123 family. Like many, I admired Dr. Paziotopoulos very much and always tried to hang on to everything he shared with me about leadership and life. Under his direction School District 123 thrived, adding many new programs and building projects which will remain his signature to future generations of students, staff, and families. Dr. Paziotopoulos was a wonderful person and a wise educator, with a heart of gold, who always had a warm smile for those in his presence. He will be greatly missed,” said Dr. Enderle.
During his tenure, his vision and philosophy guided the creation of the Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School. His legacy posted as a quote in the gym named after him, “When I exit the arena, I pledge to leave behind my best effort, my ‘No Quit’ attitude, and my ‘All for one and one for all’ belief.” -Dr. James A. Paziotopoulos. District staff remembers working with Dr. Paz fondly, as a man who believed in his staff and set expectations high.
“Dr. Paz was a man of great integrity. He had high standards and sought to instill those high expectations in the teachers and staff of District 123. As a teacher, I felt valued and proud to be part of a school district that was “one of the very best.” Whenever you spoke to him, Dr. Paz always had a smile on his face and a positive message to share. He was a true educator, and he will be greatly missed by all who knew him,” said Margaret Shanker.
As a kind man who was able to connect with students as well as staff.
“Dr. Paziotopoulos had an immense impact on my teaching career. I first met him when
he came to interview and observe me teaching my Kindergarten class at Covington. Dr. Paz, dressed in a suit and tie, sat in the small student chair and watched intently as I taught the lesson. The students were mesmerized by him as he connected with them throughout the lesson. His love of learning, compassion, and kindness was apparent. This interaction led to a major change in my teaching career, but he was there to support and encourage me every step of the way. As a young teacher, he pushed me beyond my comfort zone, encouraging me to obtain my Master’s Degree and Administrative Certificate. When I had questions, he stopped what he was doing and gave me his undivided attention. At McGugan, Dr. Paz created an environment based on integrity, trust, and respect. Although his role changed from Principal to Superintendent, his genuine leadership was always there to support each staff member. Dr. Paziotopoulos’ ‘no quit’ attitude is one that I will keep close to my heart as I continue my teaching career in D123,” shared Theresa Loch.
And a patient leader.
“I was beyond fortunate to have Dr. Paziotopoulos as my first principal when I entered my teaching career. His patience, kindness, and attention to detail were second to none. He respected each and every person he encountered, and it was apparent as he would greet everyone with his unforgettable smile, and then take the time listen to them with such great interest and understanding. He was an outstanding example of an educator and leader, and a true gentleman through and through. He will be missed,” Demetra Kutsulis Woulfe.
He is survived by his loving wife of 54 years Anastasia (Potamianos), his children, Pamela, Dr. Alexander, and Natalie (Jason) Ferro, his grandchild Anastasia, his sister Martha (Dr. Chris) Manitsas, nephew Dr. Steve (Manitsas) niece (the late Alexandria) brother in laws Peter (Mary) and Bill (Dory) Potamianos, many nephews, nieces, cousins and friends including Hercules and Diane Bolos and family.