By Brittni Willis, College of Education intern

nancy-cooganTUKWILA, Wash. – An alumna who is school district superintendent of the most dangerous city in the U.S. is working with Washington State University faculty on efforts to combat social ills starting in the school system.

Nancy Coogan is superintendent in Tukwila, a King County suburb south of Seattle. According to home security consultant SafeWise.com, Tukwila is America’s most dangerous city. It has 8.18 violent crimes per 1,000 people and 165.75 property crimes per 1,000.

In response, WSU Vancouver professor Sharon Kruse and academic coordinator Jennifer Gallagher worked with Coogan to develop a program in South King County called “Cultivating Leaders for Social Justice.” The goal is to “diversify the principals within school districts,” Kruse said, which is why the program focuses on recruiting teachers who are culturally and linguistically diverse, as well as those who have made social justice a priority.

The program gives students concrete actions – based in research, theory and practice – to put into play in South King County schools. It offers courses toward a degree and/or a certificate in educational leadership. There are 14 students in the program from Tukwila, Kent, Highline and Auburn.

“Cultivating Leaders for Social Justice” is designed to meet WSU’s research Grand Challenge of advancing opportunity and equity by providing future administrators with a diverse perspective.

Coogan also collaborated with WSU Spokane professor Gordon Gates on a two-year study of Coogan as she was “Becoming a Mindful Superintendent in a Turnaround District.” The study was published last year in the Open Journal of Leadership. It highlights the importance of supporting students and the families of students to nurture academic success.