04-16-12: Tim Yeomans is named new school district superintendent
04-16-12: Tim Yeomans is named new school district superintendent

Tim Yeomans, who began his educational career as a student teacher here 26 years ago, returns July 1 as the next Puyallup School District superintendent.

The Puyallup School Board unanimously agreed on March 6 to offer Yeomans (pronounced Yomans) the schools chief job. A week later, directors unanimously approved his three-year contract through 2015.

Yeomans replaces Tony Apostle, who retires at the end of June after 22 years as an educator in the Puyallup School District, including the past eight years as superintendent. Puyallup is the ninth largest school district in Washington with more than 20,500 students.

In an interview last month, Yeomans said he and his wife, Keri, are eager to move to the district and hope to relocate here by July 1. He comes to Puyallup from the Meridian School District in Bellingham, where he has served as superintendent since 2007.

Transition plan

Yeomans plans to transition into his new role by making numerous visits to the district during the next several months, including attending the semimonthly school board meetings.

He spent a day last month with Apostle driving throughout the sprawling 55-square-mile school district.

Yeomans also attended the annual “Friendraiser” Breakfast and Auction hosted by Communities In Schools of Puyallup on March 28, where he met city officials, local legislators, students, educators, and other community members. Later that day, he was welcomed by more than 175 staff and community members at a reception in his honor.

Puyallup School Board President Greg Heath said he is impressed by the depth of Yeomans’ educational background and experience, as well as his passion for education.

“Tony has done a fantastic job for our district, and Tim is going to keep that going,” Heath said. “Our students deserve the best education possible.”

Vice President Chris Ihrig added, “This man is going to bring a tremendous set of gifts and passion to this district.”

Professional experience

Before becoming superintendent in the Meridian School District, Yeomans worked nine years in the Mount Baker School District. He spent two years as assistant principal and five years as principal at Mount Baker High School, and another two years as the district assistant superintendent.

His past experience also includes three years at Bellingham High School as a teacher, coach, principal intern, and athletic director; four years at Shorecrest High School as a teacher, coach, and student leadership and activities coordinator; one year as a teacher and coach at Northshore Junior High School in Bothell; and several years of teaching and coaching while working toward his college degrees.

Yeomans, 47, started his education career in 1986 as a student teacher and coach at Puyallup High School.

The newly named superintendent repeatedly fielded questions during his interview process about why he felt he was qualified to move from a district of 2,200 students to one nearly 10 times that size.

He stressed that he has worked at every level of a school district, including as a school bus aide; athletic coach; elementary, junior high, middle school, and high school teacher; student leadership and activities coordinator; athletic director; assistant principal; principal; assistant superintendent; and superintendent.

Yeomans added he has also worked in much larger districts, including the Northshore and Bellingham school districts. Northshore is made up of three communities, he said, much like Puyallup is comprised of North Hill, South Hill, and the Puyallup Valley.

Building on district strengths

Yeomans said there is much to be proud of in this district and community.

“There are so many positives to build on,” he said. “Puyallup has everything at its fingertips to get even better.”

When asked by a community member if he has any immediate changes in mind, he said, “There is nothing I would change right from the get-go. I don’t come in with any agendas.”

His goal during the first several months, he said, will be to listen to district employees, students, community members, and the school board. He plans to visit each of the district’s 32 schools this fall to meet with staff and students and walk by classrooms to experience instruction first-hand.

“We have to be absolutely urgent on instruction,” he said. “With diminishing resources, we have to ask ourselves, how do we prioritize resources to meet our main mission? It’s about commitment and follow-through. We have to make sure our resources are centered on teaching and learning.”

It will be vital, he said, to hear from students about their learning and have them involved with committee work and other district initiatives.

“Students are the customers of the district,” he said. “Authentic input and participation by students help us to stay grounded. They are quick to say, ‘this is what is real and this is what you need to know.’ It’s important a person in my position seeks out that voice.”

Yeomans praised the district’s strengths, including award-winning schools in student achievement, a string of consecutive perfect audits, and a sizable volunteer base.

The 5,000-plus volunteers districtwide is “unrivaled” anywhere in the state, he said. “I’ve never seen anything like it. That speaks volumes about the community.”

He also praised work by the district’s Office of Diversity Affairs. “When we think about diversity and inclusion, your district is remarkable,” he said. “A lot of people give lip service to diversity, but your efforts show that you mean what you say. It’s absolutely critical not to take the foot off the gas.”

Some of his leadership strengths, he said, include the ability to work well with people, build effective teams, and bring people together around a common mission.

“One of my core values is building relationships, even when it’s hard,” he said. “You have to work through tough issues. Avoidance means we pay twice.”

Often in his conversation, Yeomans uses the phrase, “You have to go to the pressure.” He said he learned this during his student teaching days in Puyallup from George Wilfong, who continues to serve as a volunteer football coach at Puyallup High School.

He also believes strongly in professionalism and in “relentless” communications to make sure employees, students, and community members are informed about the district.

“It’s about building the capacity of the district and carrying the message as a whole that this is who we want to be.”

Yeomans said he supports the continuation of four major district study committees under way this year to examine counseling services, educational opportunities, grade level configuration, and grading practices.

He is a proponent of standards-based grading, which the district has practiced for years at the elementary level and began phasing in this year in the junior high and high schools.

Students are graded on what they know, specifically in relation to learning standards established by the state for each grade level and subject.

“It’s very reflective of what students need to know and be able to do,” he said. “That is the way we really do need to assess our students. It is happening across the state, and it gives students a target to shoot at.”

When asked by a student if he supports having ninth graders remain at the junior highs or move to the high school campuses, Yeomans said in general he supports having ninth graders on a high school campus, but only if there is space available.

“The world starts keeping score in ninth grade,” he said, referring to the fact that the grades a student earns in ninth grade count toward the overall high school grade point average.

More importantly than where the students are located, he said, is the district’s approach to teaching and learning in the ninth grade.

Yeomans also is aware of the school board’s interest in possibly running a school bond or levy election next spring to address pent-up facility needs since voters last approved a bond in 2004.

“The needs are most certainly there, and if that is what the board decides, it will be an exciting task to get to work on right away,” he said.

Awards and recognitions

Yeomans has been selected Principal of the Year twice by the Association of Washington School Principals — once in 2002 and again in 2005. More recently, he received a Washington State Student Achievement Leadership Award in 2008 from the Washington Association of School Administrators.

In 2001, when he was principal at Mount Baker High School, the Nooksack Indian Tribe of Deming, Wash., presented him with a tribal blanket in recognition of his commitment and dedication to Indian education. Yeomans credits a team of his colleagues and the tribal chair for working hard to improve relations and develop a partnership in an effort to boost student success.

Yeomans has served since 2008 as chair of the Educational Administration Professional Education Advisory Board for the Western Washington University (WWU) Woodring College of Education. He has also been an adjunct or a guest lecturer at WWU since 2004 and served since 2009 as a representative on the Educational Administration Professional Education Advisory Board for the University of Washington, Bothell School of Education.

Family and education

Yeomans was born in Seattle. As the son of an Air Force pilot, he moved often and attended nine different schools in his first 13 years of education.

He spent five years of his childhood on Randolph Air Force Base in Texas, moved to Vashon Island, Wash. for nine months, and lived in several locations on the northern end of Seattle. He also lived for a short time on an Air Force base that has since closed in Sacramento.

“I can appreciate what it’s like for children from military families and others who have to move from school to school,” he said.

He and his wife, Keri, have a 21-yearold daughter, Mikaela, who is a junior at Washington State University (WSU) studying elementary education. Their 20- year-old son, Hayden, is a WSU sophomore studying broadcast communications.

His wife has worked as a preschool instructor in Early Childhood Education and currently serves as a secretary to the assistant principal at Mt. Baker High School.

Yeomans has a bachelor’s and master’s degree from WSU and a doctorate in education from University of Washington.

When asked during the superintendent search interview process about the values that define him, he said, “Honesty, integrity, and ethically above-board in everything we do. Core values are essential in guiding what we do. I’m very enthusiastic, and I think people would say I have a smile on my face every day.”

Yeomans said he is excited about living in an area where there are thriving businesses and a caring community.

He vividly remembers the warm welcome he received upon his arrival as a student teacher in Puyallup more than two decades ago.

“Someone asked me if I had a place to live and I thought, that’s the kind of community I would like to live in someday — where people care enough to ask if you have a place to stay.”