Teachers give Tukwila superintendent 'no confidence' vote

The school system with the state's most diverse student population is a district divided as teachers in the Tukwila schools face off against their superintendent.

TUKWILA, Wash. - Tukwila teachers have handed a stinging “no confidence” vote to the school district’s superintendent.

This week the Tukwila Education Association asked Superintendent Dr. Nancy Coogan to resign, and the school board to terminate her contract if she didn't comply.

“I think the message is loud and clear.  We’re talking 240 staff members out of about 290 that don’t feel that the leadership of Nancy Coogan is in the best interest of our children,” said union president Brian Seigel.

Seigel said Tukwila has seen administrative budgets grow at a rate higher than just about any other similar sized district in the state.

At the same time, teachers say classroom programs have been cut.

“Our best programs, such as our before and after school tutoring programs, are being cut,” said Seigel.

The district blames the loss of federal grants and declining student enrollment on financial problems.

Tukwila is one of the most culturally diverse school districts in the nation with more than 80 countries represented.

The district is proud of that diversity, but it also faces challenges. It has a low graduation rate and a high number of homeless students.

Last August, KING 5 aired accusations by the district’s academic chief that money was being misspent and that student learning was suffering.

Dr. Gregory King said Coogan spent too much money on pricey, out-of-state consultants – while cutting programs for teaching assistants and academic coaches. He pointed to a $65,000 payment to an “executive coach” from Ohio.

Since that story aired, King quietly left the district with a $200,000 settlement in hand, according to records received by KING 5.

The district hired an independent firm to investigate King’s claims. In an October report, the investigator said the district’s use of consultants was appropriate.

The teacher’s union stayed silent at the time, hoping to negotiate its grievances with the superintendent and the school board in private.

But teachers say a scathing letter in January from Coogan claiming teachers resisted “outsiders,” and requesting their sensitivity to race and culture, infuriated the teaching staff.

Coogan was not available for an interview but in a statement said that “change is difficult” but necessary for the struggling district.

In a letter to teachers, the Tukwila school board sided with Coogan and her administrative team. 

Teachers say they are deciding their next move.

Copyright 2017 KING


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