After roughly 25 years with the Prosser School District, Superintendent Ray Tolcacher plans to retire in 2018.
The school board is talking with companies to help look for Tolcacher’s replacement.
“We’re at the infant stages right now,” said Bill Jenkin, school board president. “We’ve got quite some time. His contract goes through this year and all of the next.”
The school board is starting the process early so Tolcacher’s replacement is prepared for the transition, Jenkin said.
Never miss a local story.
“We want to do what’s right for the community,” he said. “There are a lot of firms that want to be involved.”
We want to do what’s right for the community. There are a lot of firms that want to be involved.
Bill Jenkin, Prosser school board president
Many of the details of the search remain unknown.
“We want to do the district justice by going through all of our options,” he said.
Tolcacher started as a teacher in California before taking positions as an elementary and a junior high school principal. He became the assistant superintendent at the Lennox School District near Los Angeles, then the superintendent for the Windsor Unified School District, north of Santa Rosa.
He was named California’s national distinguished principal. As he was receiving the award in Washington, D.C., the Loma Prieta earthquake struck the area.
President George H.W. Bush offered during his speech to help Tolcacher get in contact with his district. The school district didn’t suffer any damage, but he said the president’s recognition surprised him.
“I almost fell off my chair when he called my name,” Tolcacher said.
Tolcacher went on to serve as president of the Association of California School Administrators before moving to Eastern Washington to become Prosser’s superintendent in 1992.
“I had wonderful school boards to work with over the years,” he said. “I’ve had the joy of seeing my kids graduate from Prosser.”
I had wonderful school boards to work with over the years. I’ve had the joy of seeing my kids graduate from Prosser. I’ve enjoyed having very supportive parents in the district and not having a ton of people yelling at me when I made snow day calls.
Prosser Superintendent Ray Tolcacher
He fell in love with the region, leading to his quarter of a century at the school district.
“There isn’t a prettier place to live. The people I’ve had the opportunity to work with have been great,” he said.
After growing up in California, dealing with snow for the first time was the biggest adjustment, Tolcacher said.
For the first couple of years in the position, he had to determine what warranted canceling school because of snow. He said he would call a snow day, change his mind and then change his mind again.
“I’ve enjoyed having very supportive parents in the district and not having a ton of people yelling at me when I made snow day calls,” he said.
Some of the highlights of his career include helping to produce a series of TV magazine shows with KAPP and KVEW called School Scene. For three years, they produced stories about school districts in the area.
He has been involved with the Washington Association of School Administrators and the School Information and Research Service.
“I’ve had a lot of fun in this business. ... I’ve seen some wonderful things that have transpired over the years,” he said. “I’m still a year and a half down the line.”
He is going to be nearly 72 when he leaves, and is looking forward to some new challenges.
He is unsure whether he will stay in Prosser. He and his wife, Jeanie, an attorney, have a home they are expanding on Lake Pend Oreille in Sandpoint, Idaho.
The couple has three adult children.
When he isn’t leading the roughly 2,800-student district, Tolcacher plays golf, rides an ATV and does “whatever my wife tells me needs to be done,” he said.
While not the longest-serving superintendent in the state, Tolcacher is in the top eight, said Bill Keim of the Washington Association of School Administrators. There are fewer who have dealt with a district of the same size and complexity of Prosser.
“I remember even long before I got into this position, Ray was known throughout the state,” Keim said. “He’s effectively led Prosser. He has been very involved in our association. ... He’s currently serving on our board.”
Jenkin credited Tolcacher with making the Prosser School District one of the strongest in the region.
When he compares test scores across the area, Richland usually leads, but Prosser schools normally maintain spots close to the top, Jenkin said.
Jenkin said Tolcacher’s longevity in the position is impressive.
“It’s been wonderful working with him,” he said. “He should be proud of himself for what he’s accomplished.”