Pending school board approval, longtime Payson High teacher, coach and counselor Don Heizer has been tapped as the school’s athletic director/dean.
The board will officially act on the recommendation of a search committee and newly appointed Payson High School Principal Anna Van Zile to hire Heizer at its June 18 board meeting.
Heizer came to the district in the 1987-88 school year as an In School Suspension (ISS) supervisor and later taught American history before he became the school’s counselor.
During his tenure, Heizer has served as an assistant football and wrestling coach to several head coaches. He has built a reputation as one of the state’s finest tournament directors, especially in wrestling.
He is acknowledged as a fiercely loyal coach who went above and beyond in the service of youth.
In both football and wrestling Heizer was a technician who could compile game plans and strategies with the best coaches in the state.
In 2005 at the Arizona Coaches Association All-Star wrestling match in Prescott, he was named Arizona “Assistant Coach of the Year.”
Just weeks later, he was chosen the Region 9 (Western U.S.) “Coach of the Year.”
Before arriving in Payson, Heizer taught and coached in Colorado where in 1977 he was chosen the state’s wrestling coach of the year after taking back-to-back teams to state runner-up titles.
Former PHS principal Roy Sandoval once praised Heizer saying, “No one is more well organized and works harder than him. He’s totally committed and puts in the time and elbow grease.”
Heizer is an avid hunter and fisherman who jump-started the Payson High Bass Fishing Club that hosted its first-ever tournament two years ago.
Heizer and his wife, Pat, have two grown daughters, Whitney and Lyndsey.
The school board approved Van Zile’s plan to postpone hiring a vice principal for a year in order to first hire an athletic director, who could also serve as a school activities director. She argued that sports, band, music and other extracurricular programs have come to rely almost entirely on fees and donations for funding, as the district has tightened its budget under the pressure of legislative cuts in education spending.
She told the board she could handle the duties for both the principal and vice principal for her first year at the school, but needed an activities director to bolster the sports programs and build now-crucial community support for a range of extracurricular activities and programs.
She said the high school will need to add a vice principal’s position next year in order to cope with an avalanche of new state-imposed requirements, including frequent in-class evaluations of teachers and a requirement to develop and maintain a database that shows where every single student is at every hour of the day.