Tukwila schools ready to move forward | Editor's note

These past few months have been difficult ones for the Tukwila School District.

But the district is poised to move forward under new leadership with the selection of Seattle educator and school administrator Nancy Coogan, who has been chosen as the district’s new superintendent.

As of this writing, the Tukwila School Board hadn’t yet voted on a contract for Coogan, which formalizes her hiring. Let’s hope there are no snags.

One of the finalists for the job, Mellody Matthes, has served as interim Tukwila superintendent. For the past several months, she has written a column for the Tukwila Reporter about the district and what is required to educate Tukwila’s kids. It was important commentary and helped guide the school community through confusing times.

Coogan will find herself involved in some key staffing decisions soon.

The district is searching for a replacement for Forrest Griek, who is resigning effective June 30, as principal of Foster High School. He wants to spend more time with his family.

Two front-office managers, the school district’s human-resources director and its finance director, have been placed on paid administrative leave. The action wasn’t disciplinary nor was a reason given, but it creates an opportunity for Coogan to look at her front-office personnel.

The school district was shaken early last year when several employees filed a federal racial-discrimination lawsuit against the district. Then-superintendent Ethelda Burke was at the heart of the complaint. She resigned last summer.

A second lawsuit was filed earlier this year, maintaining that not enough has been done to resolve the issues raised in the first one. Clearly, district leadership still has work to do to ease racial tensions among employees in the district.

Now, Coogan steps in, bringing with her an impressive resume of education leadership and classroom experience. She’ll be able to build upon efforts already started in the district to address the issues raised in the two lawsuits.

Coogan has steeped herself in improving student achievement in the Seattle School District, a district like Tukwila’s that has a diverse student population. She’s an advocate for children.

So, now, the district will move forward with a new superintendent. The difficult times are by no means over. And it seems to me that Matthes still has a strong role to play; before she took the interim job, she was the district’s assistant superintendent of teaching and learning. She, too, is committed to student achievement.

Let’s welcome Coogan to Tukwila and support her in whatever way our role allows us to do.

Dean A. Radford is editor of the Tukwila Reporter. He can be reached at editor@tukwilareporter.com

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