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Pat Larson comes home as Foster High's new principal

Foster High School Principal Pat Larson - Michelle Conerly, Tukwila Reporter
Foster High School Principal Pat Larson
— image credit: Michelle Conerly, Tukwila Reporter

Like reuniting with an old friend, Pat Larson is reacquainting herself with Foster High School.

Gone so long, she wondered where applying for the principalship would be like taking a step back in time. After much debate, her decision became evident.

“I think it’s time to go home,” she said.

Larson was chosen in May as the new principal of Foster High School, a position much different from her previous years there. Not only did she teach at Foster 16 years ago, four generations of her family – her grandparents, parents, children, husband and herself – all graduated as Bulldogs.

Having the background and knowledge of not just the school but the community as well, Larson knew that she could bring a unique perspective to Foster, one not rooted in the past but focused on improving the school for the future.

“It’s not the same school (as when I taught there),” she said. “I’m not going back to a safe zone. I’m going forward to something different.”

But the school isn’t the only thing that’s changed.

For the past 14 years, Larson has held teaching positions and principalships in neighboring school districts before finding a home at the Career Academy at Truman High School in Federal Way. There, her colleagues described her as an “agent of change” due to her developed leadership skills and motivation for improvement.

“I’m a systems thinker,” Larson said. “I know enough about how schools should look and feel. . . . There’s a rhythm to school about the expectations (on) how you behave, how you come and go. It doesn’t have to be rigid, but it has to flow.”

Drawing from those experiences, Larson knew her well-seasoned skills could serve the Tukwila community and most importantly, the students and teachers at Foster.

“I’ve learned so much from all my other experiences,” she said. “And I can learn a lot from the teachers here and what they’ve been through during the time I’ve been gone.”

Looking in from the outside as a community member, Larson was able to keep up with the changes, good and bad, surrounding Foster High School. Now, in a position where she can spark change, Larson hopes to address the same concerns she once held and help the school improve its reputation.

“I don’t think there’s been consistent, positive communication out to the community,” Larson said. “The relationship between the district and the city has melted away over time. There’s no way that the school, this district cannot be working in synergy with the city because so many of the decisions at the city level directly impact the school.”

Already officials with the school district and city are planning to meet regularly.

Among various points of improvement, Larson hopes to establish more professional development programs for educators and begin the accreditation process in order to boost the school’s instructional reputation.

Although Larson has big plans for Foster, her primary goal for the upcoming year is to listen – to the teachers, students, and staff – in order to address issues facing the school, all the while never forgetting why she’s there.

“It really is about the kids,” Larson said. “I want to start with the kids.”

(To comment on this story, contact Editor Dean Radford at dradford@tukwilareporter.com)

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