School superintendent to retire

Donald Eismann -
Donald Eismann
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By Brian Beckley-The Courier-Herald

After 22 years at the head of the Sumner School District, Superintendent Donald Eismann is calling it a career at the end of this school year.

Eismann announced his decision at the Feb. 14 school board meeting, bringing an end to a career that has seen his district go from eight schools to 13, including the opening of two middle school and a second high school.

Eismann, 65, was first hired by the district in 1977 as a half-time administrative assistant. He moved through the ranks as assistant superintendent and deputy superintendent before assuming the top spot.

During his long tenure, Eismann said he had several offers from other districts, but never wanted to leave.

“Sumner always seemed like the right place for me to be,” he said. “It's hard to describe, but it's a wonderful place.

“There is always something to keep me interested,” he said.

Eismann said the decision to retire did not come quickly. The seeds of his decision were sown in 2001, when he took a sabbatical to help start a doctoral program in Educational Leadership at the University of Washington.

At that time, Eismann began competing in triathlons and competed regularly for several years, including winning the 2003 Pacific Northwest Sprint Triathlon Championship in his age group.

In recent years, however, he has been able to participate in fewer and fewer events as his workload increased. Without the restraints of having to go to the office every day, he hopes to devote more of his time to training and competing with a goal of completing a half-Ironman by the end of 2008.

“Retiring is not in my vocabulary,” He said. “I plan on training like a crazed individual.”

Eismann said he also plans to study for a certified Financial Planning certificate with a goal of helping people who can't afford traditional financial planning. He may even teach a course or two at UW, one of his alma maters.

“I've been a workaholic,” he said. “I want to continue that level of energy in a different area.”

Eismann said he is proud of the district's accomplishments during his time at the helm, citing increased student achievement. He's proud that Sumner now ranks among the best in Pierce County in a number of academic assessments.

Eismann also said he is pleased at the talent the district has amassed.

“The staff is just outstanding,” he said, citing the decision to add a professional development specialist as key to the district's success.

Before the school year is out, however, Eismann still has several goals he hopes to accomplish, including the acceptance of Sumner High School into the International Baccalaureate Program, which would allow the school to offer an advanced degree similar to Advanced Placement work.

“That been a dream of mine for 22 years,” he said.

Eismann also hoped to see the opening of Elementary No. 9, planned for the Cascadia development, something the district has been working toward for nearly a decade - but he realizes that won't happen.

School board members and administration officials said Eismann's announcement would begin a nationwide search for a replacement and have promised an open process to gather community input, beginning with what characteristics the community hopes to find in their next superintendent.

Board members have expressed a desire to hire an educator with a focus on teaching and learning to continue the trajectory Eismann helped create.

Eismann's last day will be June 29.

Brian Beckley can be reached at

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