Paul Cheng was born in Guangzhou, China and lived for seven years in Hong Kong before immigrating in 1956 at age 9 to White Plains, New York under the Refugee Relief Act of 1953. He earned his BA in political science and an MAT in social sciences/secondary education from Harpur College/SUNY-Binghamton. Paul attended college during the late 1960s, a period of immense political and social upheaval that greatly influenced his world outlook and eventual career choice. He worked two summers as an intern with the Urban Corps’ anti-poverty programs in New York City and changed his views on the Vietnam War after attending a peace rally featuring civil rights icon Julian Bond. In November 1969, Paul rode an overnight bus with fellow classmates to Washington, D.C. to take part in the largest anti-war demonstration in U.S. history. Upon graduation, he served as a VISTA Volunteer in San Diego. Later, Paul settled in the SF/Bay Area and earned his second MA in educational administration from San Francisco State University.
Paul was an associate superintendent (2007-2009) and a part-time consulting administrator (2009-2018) with the Fremont Union High School District (FUHSD) headquartered in Sunnyvale, California. Prior to working for FUHSD, he served 34 years (1973-2007) with the San Francisco Unified School District in various school site and central office capacities—classroom/resource teacher, department chair, curriculum specialist, planning specialist, project manager, assistant principal, and principal. For 9 years, Paul was principal of Newcomer High School, which provided a unique model program for immigrant and refugee students. He subsequently became the first principal of Chinese American descent at Lowell High School, founded in 1856, the oldest public high school west of the Mississippi. During his 16-year tenure (1990-2006), Lowell was recognized as a California Distinguished School three times as well as a National Blue Ribbon School twice. After Lowell, he went to Thurgood Marshall Academic High School as a principal-on-special assignment for a year (2006-2007) to help the school ward off impending state sanctions by strengthening its academic and student support programs.
Over the past four plus decades, Paul has been active with a number of professional, community, civic, and educational organizations. He served on the San Francisco Civil Grand Jury (SFCGJ) that annually investigates the efficiency and effectiveness of city government. He and other former SFCGJ members mentored Balboa High School’s Law Academy students in their investigation of city/school district issues as part of an 8-week program supported by pro bono attorneys. He was an alumni volunteer-advisor for the Graduate College of Education at San Francisco State University. He was a co-coordinator of the student exchange program between Lowell High School and Hong Kong Baptist University Affiliated School. He serves on the 1990 Institute’s Board of Directors and was a program advisor for its annual “China Now For Teachers” summer workshop (2013-2018).
Paul’s interest in China—its tumultuous history and rise—is deeply personal, as his maternal grandfather served with the Qing military, and his father fought and was wounded in the early battles of the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945).