Jean Shumate (left), seen here during a February 2019 school board meeting, will retire June 30 after 20 years at the Stanwood-Camano School District superintendent. (Skagit Valley Herald, file)

Jean Shumate (left), seen here during a February 2019 school board meeting, will retire June 30 after 20 years at the Stanwood-Camano School District superintendent. (Skagit Valley Herald, file)

Stanwood-Camano superintendent to retire after 20 years

Jean Shumate has been at the helm longer than any other superintendent in Snohomish County.

STANWOOD — Jean Shumate is one of the longest-standing superintendents in the state.

After two decades, her time on the job is coming to an end.

Shumate, 65, is retiring at the end of the school year from her post as superintendent of the Stanwood-Camano School District. She has the longest tenure of any superintendent in Snohomish County.

“I feel like my success really is a result of the people I work with,” Shumate said. “If you have a great team, then everybody succeeds. It’s a special place.”

Her final day is June 30. Now the Stanwood-Camano School Board is getting ready to find a replacement.

Shumate grew up in Seattle and in 1973 graduated from Roosevelt High School at the age of 17.

She then attended North Seattle Community College, and moved on to the University of Washington where she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, both in mathematics. She later received a doctorate in education and leadership from Seattle Pacific University.

Shumate always knew she wanted to become an educator. Her mother was a teacher as well.

Shumate has taught math in middle and high schools, and at the college and university levels.

“Math was probably the subject I struggled with most in school, but I found it to be something I really liked in college,” she said. “Your answers are either right or wrong, there was no debating.”

Because math did not come to her easily, she thought she could help students overcome their own struggles in the subject.

Her first job was at James Monroe Middle School in Ballard. She remembers feeling nervous and probably being overly prepared when she first started.

“I just wanted to make sure I did a really good job,” she said. “As I got going it was just so much fun. I think working with students and teaching, when they get it and the light comes on, it’s very rewarding. And I enjoy the sense of humor of kids.”

She continued to teach in Seattle schools until about 1980, and then moved to the Northshore School District where she later became an assistant principal.

In 1993 she became a high school principal in the Highline School District, then an administrator. In 2001 she was hired in Stanwood-Camano.

When she first started, district finances were in bad shape. Shumate helped turn that around and over the years has come up with plans to keep the district financially stable. That has been one of her greatest accomplishments, she said.

Another is passing a bond measure in 2017 to build a brand-new Stanwood High School. It opened this year. That’s one reason Shumate decided to retire now.

“I wanted to see that project through,” she said. “That was my goal.”

Nationwide, superintendents on average stay in a position for about four years, said Joel Aune, executive director of Washington Association of School Administrators.

Of 295 school districts in Washington, 160 of the state’s superintendents have been in the position four years or fewer, he said.

At 20 years, Shumate has the third-longest tenure in the state.

“In this day and age that’s a pretty good run,” Aune said. “Us superintendent types, we don’t have a very long shelf life.”

On Monday, the Stanwood-Camano School District Board of Directors voted to hire Northwest Leadership Associates to help find a new superintendent.

None of the board members have gone through the superintendent hiring process. Because of the pandemic, they plan to host online video forums and send out surveys to the community.

Once there is a list of finalists, the candidates likely will tour the district, School Board President Natalie Hagglund said.

They hope to choose someone by June to take over July 1.

Hagglund has lived in Stanwood most of her life, and graduated from Stanwood High School in 1995. She has been on the board of directors for six years, and has served as president for two. She now has two children who attend Stanwood High School.

Shumate has been a dedicated and hands-on superintendent, Hagglund said.

“She fights for our kids, and she fights for what’s best for our district. She spends a lot of her own time going out and advocating for our levies and bonds when they come up for election,” she said. “That definitely benefits my children because they are going to high school in a brand new school.”

She recalled a time last summer when the district was dropping off lunches, and Shumate would help load coolers onto the buses every day. On days when it has snowed she has gone out early in the morning to make sure the roads are safe, Hagglund said.

“She is not afraid to jump in and do things herself if that’s what it takes,” she said.

In retirement Shumate hopes to golf more with her husband, Greg. They plan to stay in the area.

“There hasn’t been a day where I haven’t thought about how lucky I am to work in such a great school district and live in this wonderful community,” Shumate wrote in a letter announcing her retirement. “You are like family to me and I know that I will miss you.”

Stephanie Davey: 425-339-3192; sdavey@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @stephrdavey.

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