Washougal superintendent to retire in June

Dawn Tarzian has worked in education for 37 years

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Dawn Tarzian

Superintendent Dawn Tarzian will retire as head of the Washougal School District in June.

Tarzian, who has served as superintendent since 2011, has worked in education for 37 years. Before coming to Washougal, she served as a teacher, principal, curriculum director and superintendent in Oregon.

During the past four years, Tarzian led the district’s efforts to refocus on instruction, student achievement and building trust with the staff and community, a press release from the district stated.

Most recently, Proposition 5, the WSD capital improvements bond, passed with a super majority of 60.94 percent. The funds will be used to make safety improvements at district schools and provide greater capacity to end overcrowding.

“(I) understand the importance of the work that lies ahead and the need for community involvement in the next steps of the process,” she said. “I feel that the superintendent who engages in these conversations needs to be here through the completion of these projects in 2018-2019.”

Another focus of Tarzian’s was her work with local stakeholders to develop a new district vision and mission through a comprehensive strategic planning process.

“I have deeply appreciated the involvement of the community and the dozens of community members who helped create a new direction for the school district,” she said. “The engagement and support of the Washougal community in the leadership initiatives has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career.”

Tarzian is also credited with helping establish summer school programs, after school interventions and partnerships with the community to provide parents tools to help children build the skills they need to succeed.

Tarzian said a favorite part of her job was spending time in the classroom observing interactions between teachers and students, and seeing firsthand the work that students are doing.

When she retires, Tarzian will join her husband of 35 years, Peter, who will retire from the Sherman County School District at the end of this school year. The Tarzians have six grown children, three of whom are in the field of education, and six grandchildren.

Tarzian began her career in 1978 as an elementary school teacher in Eagle Point School District in Southern Oregon and later moved to the Eugene 4J School District. She served as principal in the Falls City and Albany school districts in Oregon before a move to Corvallis in 2001. Her first superintendent post was with the Corvallis School District from 2005 to 2011.

Washougal School Board members praised Tarzian’s leadership skills and personality.

“Dawn has been an outstanding superintendent and is just a genuinely good person,” said Karen Rubino. “Her leadership skills exceed those of anyone I have known. She is very personable, has a great sense of humor and cares very much about the staff, the kids and this community….She has worked tirelessly to break down communication barriers at every level and highlight excellence in our schools. She has shown us how to be a great district, not just a good one.”

Board member Elaine Pfeifer admires Tarzian’s “integrity and absolute commitment to do what is best for students.”

“In every decision, in every interaction with students, staff, board and community, that came through,” she said. “Her greatest accomplishment, I believe, was in recognizing and developing leaders within the district and the community that will carry on with the great work she put in place.”

The Board will work with BWP and Associates to find a replacement superintendent to start in July 2015.