OMAK — Omak School Superintendent Dr. Art Himmler will be remembered for bringing online learning and technology improvements to the district.
“It’s been a real boon to our whole community,” said school board chairman Wendell George. “We’ve kind of moved into the 21st century.”
Himmler, 68, died Thursday morning in a crash on Highway 97, two miles south of Pateros, on his way to Wenatchee for a school-related meeting.
A report from the Washington State Patrol said that he was attempting to pass another vehicle in the northbound lane at 7:06 a.m. when he lost control of his 2008 Ford F150 pickup truck, which rolled, coming to rest on its top.
State Patrol Lt. Ken Wade said witnesses reported that Himmler was driving at or just over the posted speed limit of 60 mph when passing. He said there were icy patches on the roadway, and his vehicle was seen losing traction before he went into the slide.
Himmler was ejected from the vehicle and died at the scene. It is unknown whether he was wearing a seat belt. Wade said Himmler was clearly not properly restrained, and they are still investigating whether his lapbelt was being used, and if not, whether there may have been a medical reason for him not to wear it.
He said there was no evidence that alcohol or illegal drugs were involved, but blood was drawn and sent to a toxicology lab for testing, as in all vehicle fatalities.
Himmler led the Steilacoom School District in Pierce County for 15 years before he left to take the job at Omak three and a half years ago.
George said Himmler led the district in a gradual move toward developing an online learning program. “We’re probably the biggest in the state now,” George said, with over 3,000 students from all over the state.
In addition, he said, Himmler brought advanced technology to all of the district’s schools, and students from kindergarten through high school are using advanced equipment.
George said when the district first interviewed Himmler, their meeting was conducted by phone because he was in California receiving an award for technology-savvy superintendents. Some board members were so impressed by the interview, they wanted to hire him on the spot, but agreed to wait until meeting him in person, George said.
He said Okanogan School Superintendent Richard Johnson will lead the district for a couple of weeks while they search for an interim superintendent. They hope to find a new superintendent in the next few months.
George said Himmler’s wife and three grown daughters are planning a private funeral. The district will hold a memorial at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 23 in the Omak High School gym.
K.C. Mehaffey: 997-2512