Nancy Coogan off to fast start as Tukwila school superintendent

Nancy Coogan sits on exercise bars at Foster High School Werner Neudorf Stadium at Foster High School. - Dean A. Radford/Tukwila Reporter
Nancy Coogan sits on exercise bars at Foster High School Werner Neudorf Stadium at Foster High School.
— image credit: Dean A. Radford/Tukwila Reporter

By Michelle Conerly

Nancy Coogan, the new superintendent of the Tukwila School District, isn’t wasting any time.

Already, she’s held two community forums and plans to coordinate more throughout the upcoming school year. On July 8, the district conducted training in cultural competency.

She also has a three-year strategic plan in mind to help improve the district.

What’s surprising is she didn’t officially start as superintendent until July 1.

Coogan was chosen in March to be the new superintendent of the Tukwila School District after a lengthy seven-month search process. Applicants from all over the country applied for the position, but it was Coogan’s energy and enthusiasm that attracted the School Board to the seasoned administrator.

Coogan says she’s had her eyes set on the Tukwila school superintendent’s job for years.

Coogan earned her masters in special education and her administrative credentials from City University. She also graduated from Washington State University’s superintendent program. Prior to experience as the executive director of schools in the central region in the Seattle Public School District, Coogan was the principal of Olympic Middle School in the Mukilteo School District. During her time in Seattle, Coogan also was a member of the Professional Education Advisory Boards of Seattle Pacific University and City University and served on the Seattle University’s Youth Advisory Board.

With a background rooted in diversity and equity, Coogan is ready to address any and all areas of concern in her new school community.

Adjustments in leadership must be made, moving from the central region of Seattle, an area that serves about 10,000 children, to Tukwila, a district with about 3,000 students.

Coogan recognizes the pros and cons of such a tight-knit working environment.

“I think the challenges are that you wear multiple hats,” she said. “I think the benefits are I think I could do some really good work with five schools and really know what’s going on in each and every building.”

But before she gets her hands dirty, Coogan understands that to address any issues, she must listen for the wants and needs of the community.

“I think as a new leader coming into the district, it would be really smart for me to listen,” she said. “Listen for understanding but also sit back and watch to know what’s working really well.”

One area Coogan plans to address is the disconnect in communication she sees between the central office and the classrooms.

“It causes me to pause because the work on the ground is so challenging as is the work in the central office,” she said. “But we can’t lose sight of what people are doing day-in and day-out, because the demands of the job are becoming untenable. We’ve got to take care of our people.”

Another area Coogan hopes to focus on in her first year is building trust throughout the district.

“(My goal is) to build the trust within the organization through on-going communication, knowing what’s going on on the ground, and then to cultivate community as a system,” she said.

One reoccurring theme in Coogan’s career centers around equity, a complex idea that she’s introduced during her time working with students, staff and faculty in Seattle.

“I view my work through an equity lens,” Coogan said. “(Meaning) how do I provide access for each and every and all? All means all and not for just some.”

But Coogan’s ready to get the ball rolling as soon as possible, hoping that by the end of her first year, positive changes will be evident throughout the district.

“I think I can have a very thorough qualitative picture (of what’s going on) by the end of my first semester and definitely by the end of my first year where I can paint a picture about the culture of the ethos of all the buildings that I serve,” she said.

(To comment on this story, contact Editor Dean Radford at

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