Lake Tahoe Unified School District Superintendent James Tarwater retiring after next school year |

Lake Tahoe Unified School District Superintendent James Tarwater retiring after next school year

James Tarwater’s tenure as Lake Tahoe Unified School District superintendent will end after the 2019-20 school year.

The LTUSD Board of Education is slated to accept Tarwater’s decision to retire during its meeting Tuesday, June 25.

The agenda includes an amendment to his contract that sets a retirement date of June 30, 2020 — which is one year earlier than the term of a contract amendment approved in 2018.

Earlier this month the board reviewed Tarwater’s performance in closed session. The contract amendment coming before the board Tuesday states that he received a “satisfactory” evaluation.

Under a labor agreement — LTUSD policy is to extend terms negotiated by one group, such as the teachers union, to all employees including senior leadership in the district — approved earlier this year, Tarwater will see a retroactive 2% increase to his base salary for the 2018-19 school year. An additional $3,534 for an earned doctorate stipend will increase his total compensation for the school year to $198,157.13.

He will receive a 3.25% increase for the 2019-20 school year. With $3,649 for his stipend, Tarwater will receive $204,597.38 during his final year.

Tarwater was hired in 2005. In a letter the board thanked the longtime superintendent for his years of service.

“And as we prepare to move forward in the next chapter of the Lake Tahoe Unified School District, we pause to recognize the indelible mark Jim Tarwater has made on this district. His legacy is cemented. We, the Trustees of the Lake Tahoe Unified School District Board of Education, deeply and profoundly thank Dr. James Tarwater for his service to our schools, our employees, our community, and most importantly, our kids.”

The letter lists the following accomplishments during his tenure:              

  • Visionary about technology for all students making LTUSD a leader in technology and 1:1 computing.
  • Recognized a need for Meyers School to be rebranded and reopened, and created the Lake Tahoe Environmental Science Magnet School.
  • Embarked on the development of the TWBI Program and committed long-term resources to students in K-12, changing the culture of Bijou Community School, and creating a model program and pathway to biliteracy for hundreds of students. By the year 2022, approximately twenty-five percent of the district’s student population will be fluent in both English and Spanish.
  • Procured and negotiated 33.6% in salary increases for all staff, making Lake Tahoe Unified School District more competitive for attracting and retaining highly qualified teachers and classified staff members.
  • Family oriented and recognizes that the success of the student relies on the success of the family.
  • Equally supportive of all student programs including academic, arts, and athletics.
  • Oversaw the reorganization of Mt. Tallac, the Transitional Learning Center, Independent Learning Academy, and the addition of online programs.
  • Visionary in allowing the staff to create effective CTE programs before most schools were even thinking about them.
  • At the helm of all, the most significant expansion of facilities and programs including TADA, Construction and Transportation, Sports & Conditioning Center, Culinary Arts, and Sports Medicine. Provided for and led the construction of Stadium View, the Student Union, building projects at Bijou Community School, South Tahoe Middle School and renovations at the elementary schools.
  • Raised money and led the construction of the STMS Track & Field Stadium. Secured lighting for that stadium as well as at the high school stadium, bringing Friday Night Lights to our community.
  • Renovated the fields at all other school sites, recognizing the need to support recreation and opportunities for student participation. Took on the responsibility of maintaining and coordinating use of almost all the community fields.   
  • Fiscally responsive to teachers and administrators to achieve program success and increase student achievement.
  • Realized the need for school nurses at every school site and was formally recognized by the California School Nurses Organization for his support of student health.
  • Served simultaneously as the Superintendent of LTUSD and the Principal of the Lake Tahoe Environmental Science Magnet School for 8 years due to budgetary constraints – he would tell you those 8 years were the happiest years of his entire career.
  • Led the District through perilous economic downturns, staff reductions, and the Angora Fire.
  • Created opportunities for student success at all levels. He remembers the names of countless kids, rejoices in their successes, and does everything possible to help when they fall short.

Tarwater’s tenure hasn’t been free of controversy. The district’s handling of a fire at Sierra House Elementary School this past year led some parents to call for his firing.

The board meeting starts at 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 25, at the district office located at 1021 Al Tahoe Blvd.

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