Tarzian takes the helm at Mount Pleasant

Peter Tarzian previously worked at small school districts in Oregon

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Peter Tarzian’s retirement didn’t last too long.

He was recently named as part-time superintendent at the Mount Pleasant School District, after retiring in 2011 from a superintendent position in Oregon.

He and his wife, Dawn Tarzian, relocated to the area after she was named superintendent of the neighboring Washougal School District in July 2011.

The Mount Pleasant School District has been embroiled in turmoil over the last several months, after it was discovered a longtime employee had been stealing fuel from the district. Board members were at odds with each other over the situation, and Superintendent Linda Slattery resigned in August, saying she felt threatened and harassed.

When asked why he decided to apply for the job, Tarzian mentioned that the Falls City School District, where he last served as superintendent, is very similar to Mount Pleasant in many ways.

“The problems in a small school district like Mount Pleasant are very familiar to me,” he said. “I heard that they were looking (for a superintendent) and I was interested,” he said. “And it’s a seven minute drive from my home.”

Tarzian, 71, will earn $12,000 a year, plus travel expenses when he goes with teachers to an in-service activity. He served as superintendent for 12 years in Falls City. He was elected to the Oregon State Legislature in 1984, where he served for two years. Tarzian has also worked as continuing education director at Rogue Community College, and as a teacher and public relations officer for the Eagle Point School District. He has a doctorate from the University of Oregon in education policy and management, with emphasis on both K-12 and higher education.

The Mount Pleasant Board unanimously approved the one-year contract.

Karl Kanthak, board president, said he is pleased with Tarzian’s credentials and experience.

“He’s already proven to be a good fit, providing valuable input and thoughtful guidance.”

“I am here to help them get to where they want to be, that is the understanding between the board and myself,” Tarzian said. “I believe that the turmoil that everyone talks about is behind us, and everyone seems fine.”

Tarzian’s short-term goal is to help the board understand how to effectively operate a school system. One of the ways he hopes to get there is to have board members attend various training sessions offered by the Washington State School Directors’ Association.

“Sometimes, when a district has struggled with economic issues, a board can find themselves making decisions that are not in the best long-term interests of the school district,” he said. “They don’t want to spend taxpayers’ dollars to attend trainings, but these are for them to be knowledgeable (about their job).”

Tarzian’s long-range goal is to help the board determine a future direction of the district.

“It’s nice to have a mix of long-term and newer board members,” he said. “They’re all very intent on getting the school going in the right direction.”