Washougal School District superintendent to depart

Mary Templeton has accepted a position leading the Lake Stevens School District effective July 1

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Washougal School District Superintendent Mary Templeton (Photo courtesy of the Washougal School District)

Washougal School District Superintendent Mary Templeton has accepted a job leading the Lake Stevens School District in Lake Stevens, Washington. The Washougal schools head will transition into her new job as of July 1. 

“It’s going to be hard to leave because people have been good to me here,” Templeton said. “They have supported me. They’ve valued me. They’ve been honest with me. And they’ve shown up for me as a superintendent. I appreciate that greatly, and it’s going to be hard to leave. There’s no stopping this district. It is indeed rising, and the bright futures of the children of this community are in good hands.”

The Lake Stevens school board considered three finalists — including Templeton, Edmonds School District Assistant Superintendent Helen Joung and Chehalis School District Superintendent Christine Moloney — before naming Templeton as their next superintendent April 19. 

In a news release, officials from the Lake Stevens School District said Templeton “brings a wealth of experience in educational leadership, having dedicated the past 30 years enhancing student achievement in both large and small school districts.”

Templeton, who grew up in the Portland area and attended the University of Oregon, began her position as the Washougal School District’s superintendent in 2018, and was immediately tasked with bringing an end to a teachers’ strike that delayed the start of the 2018-19 school year by several days. 

She led Washougal schools through the COVID-19 pandemic and faced community members who were adamantly against the public health measures the state of Washington and its school districts adopted to help keep COVID at bay during the height of the pandemic. This year, Templeton has been working to shepherd the district through a $3 million budget shortfall. 

“It’s been a very challenging sequence of events, but I am grateful for the opportunity to lead this district through them,” said Templeton. “Through that, all of us, myself included, got the opportunity to grow in our capacity and model grit, humility, determination, compassion and innovation for the future. Those are the qualities that came out of some of the crises we’ve been through. We’ve gained something that we didn’t have before because we went through something very challenging together.”

There were a few bright spots, too, of course, including a national award for Templeton, who was honored by the National Schools Public Relations Association in 2018 as a “Superintendent to Watch.”

Templeton announced in 2022, that she was seeking a new position closer to the Seattle area and told The Post-Record she had applied for positions with the Kent and Issaquah school districts to be closer to her three adult children — Tyler, Nick and Brenna — after husband Terry passed away in 2021.

“The arc of my personal and professional lives clearly has put me on this new direction, and I’m super excited about that,” Templeton said. “The Seattle area does have a lot of allure for me.”

Templeton traveled to Lake Stevens April 18 for an in-person interview, during which she visited North Lake Middle School and answered questions at a community forum. 

“I’m so privileged to be standing here,” Templeton told community members during the forum. “I’m excited to spend the day with all of you, and to get to know you, and to talk about what matters to you. I feel like I connected. I’d love to be your ‘people.’ I’d love to live in this community.”

Lake Stevens is located in Snohomish County, about six miles west of Everett, and has a population of roughly 35,000 people. Templeton will oversee the daily operations of the school district, including the management of a $176 million budget, more than 9,400 students, 1,200 employees, 11 schools and numerous special programs and partnerships. She will replace outgoing Lake Stevens superintendent Ken Collins, who served the district in a variety of capacities for the past 34 years before announcing his retirement earlier this year. 

Prior to accepting the superintendent position in Washougal in 2018, Templeton taught German, English and drama, served as dean of students and assistant principal, and led the human resources department in Spokane Public Schools.

Mari Taylor, president of the Lake Stevens school board, said Templeton’s “proven track record of fostering academic excellence, and her commitment to harnessing student voice, and deepening engagement” align with the Lake Stevens School District’s vision for the future and strategic goals. 

“Among a pool of highly qualified candidates, (Templeton) truly stood out,” Taylor said. “Her visionary leadership, unwavering passion for education, and exceptional skill in building relationships set her apart.”

Washougal School Board members stated in a news release that they are “proud of Templeton’s tenure in Washougal and her dedication to seeing the district rise during the six years she has served as superintendent.”

“Through the last six years, Mary has consistently focused on increasing student achievement and opportunities,” said Washougal School Board President Angela Hancock. “Her determination to see our students and our district rise to our full potential has led to the highest graduation rate on record.  The board deeply appreciates her steady leadership throughout some of the most difficult years we have seen in public education.”

The news release highlighted Templeton’s efforts to develop the WSD’s 2025 strategic plan; invest in teacher training and reboot the district’s Professional Learning Community “collaboration time” periods; champion its career and technical education program; elevate student voice; strengthen relationships with community organizations; and implement a scratch-made meal program.

“Her passion for serving the whole child led to a focus on engaging students in artistic, creative, vocational, and athletic pursuits that help students develop skills needed to be successful in the workplace,” according to the news release. “She has helped the Washougal community navigate a number of unprecedented challenges. Through her steady leadership, our district has emerged from the pandemic with strong community support, committed staff, and a vision for a bright future for every student.”

Templeton said she achieved all of the major benchmarks that the Washougal School Board set out for her when she was hired — being visible in the community, developing productive relationships with the district’s labor partners and staff members, aspiring to a high level of achievement, and leading the district’s rise to become a top performer in the state of Washington, among them.

“I came into this district with a vision, and I believe that vision has been realized,” Templeton said. “I feel like we, as a collective ‘we,’ under my leadership, accomplished the things that the board hired me to do and that the community asked the board to be looking for. I believe that over the last six years, I hit the mark on those requests from this community via the board that hired me six years ago, and I’m very proud of that work.”