New schools superintendent shares her goals

Dawn Tarzian looks forward to serving in the Washougal School District

New Washougal School District Superintendent Dawn Tarzian is looking forward to being a part of the community.

Tarzian, who has served as superintendent in the Corvallis School District in Corvallis, Ore., since 2005, said she enjoys using a personal approach in her job.

For example, the Corvallis School District has 6,040 students and 14 schools, and Tarzian said she likes to try and visit six to eight classrooms per week.

“I like anything that puts me into contact with the teachers and students,” she said. “I hope to continue that in Washougal. The enjoyment I get from this job is being close to the principals and teachers.”

Tarzian added that since the Washougal School District is approximately half the size of the one in Corvallis, she hopes to spend twice the amount of time in classrooms that she does in her current job.

She was one of four finalists for the superintendent’s position. Prior to her current job as superintendent in Corvallis, Tarzian served as the district’s assistant superintendent and director of teaching and learning.

The Washougal School Board is expecting to finalize her contract at its April 26 meeting. It is expected to include an annual salary of $128,000, a monthly car allowance of $300 and a standard administrator’s health, dental and vision benefit package.

Tarzian has an Oregon administrator’s licence, which the state of Washington will reciprocate, provided the appropriate fee is paid and the applicant is fingerprinted.

Tarzian decided to apply for the job in Washougal because of the focus on student achievement.

“I was very attracted to that, and also that teaching and learning is not limited to core subjects. I like that there are skills which encourage involvement in the community. I also like that arts are a priority and the technical education courses suggest that the community and district defines education broadly.”

Last fall, Tarzian announced her retirement as superintendent in Corvallis in June. She said she did this because she promised her husband, a superintendent in the Falls City School District in Falls City, Ore. that she would do so. He has since resigned from his position and will move with her to Washington.

“At the time, I didn’t know what my next step would be,” she said, referring to an interview in a Corvallis newspaper that stated she was retiring, but nothing about applying for future superintendent jobs.

Prior to becoming an administrator in Corvallis, Tarzian served as director of student services for Linn Benton Lincoln Education Service District, principal for the Greater Albany School District in Albany, Ore., and principal in the Falls City School District in Falls City, Ore.

Tarzian, 55, earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Santa Barbara and her master’s in education from the University of Oregon. She holds an Oregon administrator’s license.

Tarzian and the other three finalists visited the Washougal School District on March 25 to tour schools, meet district staff, students and community members and interview with the Board of Directors.

The other candidates were current Washougal Assistant Superintendent Rebecca Miner, Tumwater Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Bob Kuehl and Kalama School District Superintendent Jim Sutton,

“All of the candidates were great,” School Board Chairman Blaine Peterson said. “That was the tough part about it. But (Tarzian’s) range of experience and her management style was the best fit for us.”

Current Superintendent Teresa Baldwin will retire in June, but there will be a transition period where she will work with Tarzian to familiarize her with the job in the 2,901 student, 405 staff district.

Baldwin also works as superintendent in the Mount Pleasant School District five hours per week. She has not yet decided whether to continue in that job.

Tarzian said her goals in Washougal are to learn as much as possible and work with the administrators and staff to further implement professional learning communities. This is where teachers and administrators focus on student achievement by sharing different instructional methods that have worked, and use their individual skills together.

“I want to know as much as possible about what is currently occurring,” Tarzian said. “I also want to connect with the community and get involved with the parent-teacher organizations, chamber of commerce and local residents.”

Tarzian said that in Corvallis, she has a strong partnership with the school board and plans to continue that in Washougal.

“That relationship is based on trust, and I plan on investing myself to working closely with the board,” she said.