Dan Zeisler, dual superintendent at Chicago Park, Clear Creek school districts, to retire at winter break
KNOW & GO
What: Last Friday flag raising of the year, honoring Dan Zeisler (open to the public)
When: 8:25 a.m. Friday
Where: Chicago Park School, 15725 Mt. Olive Road, Grass Valley. If it’s sunny, it will be in the quad. If rainy, the gymnasium
After college, Dan Zeisler got a job on a golf course in Chico.
The now dual superintendent of Chicago Park and Clear Creek school districts was mandated by the course manager to tell him one thing he did to make the golf course better each day.
That lesson — the value of setting goals, daily improvement and future orientation — stuck with him through his years as a principal and superintendent, and encouraged him to be more personally accountable.
“It’s a mindset, it’s something that you look for,” he said.
Before each school year began, Zeisler said he would write five goals he wanted to accomplish at each school district. He would then provide those ambitions to school board members who could in turn review his progress.
After 18 years of such actions and much else in service of Chicago Park School, in addition to a few years at Clear Creek School, Zeisler is retiring from both places at winter break.
Several administrators noted Zeisler’s perseverance, kindness and skills, which helped him acquire funding to improve student programming.
Current Chicago Park principal, and soon to be principal-superintendent, Katie Kohler said Zeisler was the reason she came to the school.
“He has a way to think outside the box to provide programs and opportunities that you normally don’t see out here,” she said. “He’s constantly researching — are there any grants out there? Are there any funds?”
Zeisler mentioned that Kohler is interested in bolstering their school garden, so he sent her a grant opportunity for it.
What pushed him through the years was developing relationships with staff and students to better understand his school’s ecosystem, thereby propelling him to “assist at making the school better,” he said.
Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Scott Lay, who has known Zeisler since Lay’s time at Clear Creek, said part of Zeisler’s success is that he is not afraid to admit his mistakes, nor apologize for any misguided decisions.
“He’s probably the most selfless, ego-less person I’ve ever seen,” said Lay.
As part of his programming, Zeisler emphasized the importance of practicing etiquette, teaching students to look people in the eye when speaking to them, learning the value of “please and thank you,” and holding doors open for others.
“Are our kids happy individuals?” Zeisler asked rhetorically. “Did they treat people with respect? Are they making our place a better place to live?”
Those are critical things that the superintendent believes may be somewhat lost in society today.
Kohler listed Zeisler’s numerous achievements at Chicago Park: renovating and expanding its gymnasium, adding four classrooms (including a science lab and conference room), growing the student population from 97 to 185 students, completing a modernization project, running the annual local National Geographic GeoBee and teaching cribbage to students. He’s also manipulated class schedules, allowing teachers to teach an elective, said Kohler.
Lay said Zeisler was able to accomplish these things because of his exceptional character.
“He’s a nice guy and people want to work with him,” he said.
Clear Creek School Principal Carolyn Cramer, and soon to be principal-superintendent, agreed.
“His positive and respectful demeanor made me feel very comfortable sharing my ideas or concerns at any time with him,” Cramer said in an email.
Zeisler serves as dual superintendent for Chicago Park and Clear Creek school districts. Cramer will be principal-superintendent for Clear Creek. Kohler will be principal-superintendent at Chicago Park.
Maybe most cherished, however, Zeisler established Friday flag raising, when students gather every Friday at the beginning of the school day to acknowledge citizens, both local and statewide, for accomplishing great things and demonstrating good character.
Although he’s retiring, Zeisler doesn’t want to slow down too much. Holding a degree in creative writing, he said he’ll be working on poetry and short stories.
And he doesn’t want to exit the school environment completely as he plans to continue teaching students cribbage and holding this year’s local National Geographic GeoBee even after retiring.
After almost two decades of working as a Nevada County administrator, above all else he prioritizes the friendships established along the way.
“I think (what’s) most satisfying is my developing so many personal relationships with staff members, students and the community,” he said. “I will cherish those forever. That’s what’s kept me going.”
To contact Staff Writer Sam Corey email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4219.
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Highs will drop into the 60s early next week, as a chance of rain enters the forecast, the National Weather Service said.