New leadership at the district level

After being in the district for 31 years, Dr. Ken Collins leads the Lake Stevens School District


Graphic created by Conan Rinehardt

LSSD Direction: As of July 2021, Dr. Ken Collins has become the superintendent of LSSD. Collins has been pushing against systemic issues by addressing transgender discrimination, adding SACo and focusing on in-person schooling. “I’m glad to see that we are able to grow more and incite change in our district,” junior SACo member Josie Odegaard said.

This school year has brought a few new additions to the Lake Stevens School District’s school board. John Boerger, a member of the LSSD board of directors, retired and Dr. Nina Kim Hansen replaced him after the school board elections. As of July 2021, Dr. Ken Collins stepped into the position of superintendent. Unlike some superintendents, Collins is no stranger to the Lake Stevens administration.

He started at Marysville Pilchuck High School, taught for six years, and then moved to LSHS in 1990 where he taught for another 12 years and also coached football. Collins pursued his administrative credentials and became the principal at LSHS before moving on to the district where he was Assistant Superintendent of Human Resource Services for eight years and then the Assistant Superintendent of Teaching & Learning.

Right from the beginning, Dr. Collins has been impacted by COVID-19, its variants and decisions about distance learning. This year, Dr. Collins has been dedicated to keeping Lake Stevens schools in-person.

“We feel very strongly about [meeting] student’s academic, social, emotional learning and mental health needs…And so the only way we would go to distance learning is if we didn’t have the personnel or the program to be able to accommodate our students. And then it probably wouldn’t be a whole district. It would probably be class by class or school by school that would revert to distance learning while we were able to keep other students in person as long as we possibly can,” Collins said.

In fact, Dr. Collins and other district personnel have been seen substituting at LSHS recently due to a shortage of substitute teachers.

“I mean, and that’s been an ongoing challenge that we’ve had for a while. We had a shortage of subs when I was in human resources. And so that’s something that we’re continuing to look at we’re continuing to try and recruit qualified educators into our substitute pool…people who have bachelor’s degrees that can get emergency certified to substitute. The sheer volume of educators that have been out because of COVID I mean, when you have to cover, you know, probably 30 uncovered teachers throughout the district. On some days when we had Omicron. That’s what we were looking at, that’s a challenge. We’re, we’re just going to struggle to do that. So the teaching and learning team, I have a lot of people have been subbing that… that, you know, typically you wouldn’t see in the classroom,” Collins said.

Substitute teachers in Lake Stevens have been traditionally paid at a lower rate than neighboring districts, and Dr. Collins knows this.

“The last contract we’ve increased salaries,” Collins said.

In the greater picture, in person is better for students’ mental health and education.

“We feel like in-person instruction is the best way to facilitate student learning. So we’re dedicated and committed to that. So coming back to in-person instruction and being able to navigate you know, all the things that have been thrown at us that could be considered barriers, but we’ve been able to overcome those,” Collins said.

Dr. Collins emphasized that in person is better for students’ education and mental health. However, this does not solve the issues of physical health. A lot of students are concerned about new variants of the coronavirus and that in person is unsafe for students and especially older family members at home. Especially since a lot of students rumored that we would be online starting the second semester which didn’t happen.

Students at LSHS wanted to know whether the district would be adding the COVID vaccine to the list of immunizations, and the district won’t implement that unless the governor’s office mandates it.

Recently, Dr. Collins approved SACo (Student advisory council) originally founded by senior Kaitlyn Johnson.

“We were able to form a student advisory council to the school board that has three students from the high school that are actually on the school board, and then advisory students from other every other grade level that sit on the Student Advisory Council and will be a direct link between the student body and board policy and what the school board does. So we’ve increased the student voice that way,” Dr. Collins said.

This addition has been well received.

“I do think SACo is a success for Lake Stevens School District. As a student, we are the ones who are affected the most with what the School Board decides, we deserve to be in the conversation in what happens to us,” junior Josie Odegaard said.

As of 2021, students were required to take a Panorama survey about school climate. Some trans students at LSHS feel harassed or experience microaggressions from other students.

“I’ve lived here my whole life, the school district is pretty good compared to others from what I’ve heard. However, being me, and I’m gonna be real with you, being trans… bullying is everywhere,” sophomore Kai Beigal said.

So what does the school district plan on doing about this prevalent issue?

“I think a lot of that is part of the social emotional learning. In elementary school and middle school, we have some systemic ways to teach social emotional learning curriculum. Second Step at the elementary level, Character Strong at the middle school, but we don’t have that at Cavelero and the high school,” Collins said.

This issue has been a part of the board meetings because the LSSD is aware of the issue. Dr. Collins believes that microaggressions are the biggest problem. The main problem with microaggressions is that students will never feel welcomed in the LSSD if they feel like they are always being targeted.

“We were on the agenda last night for the students Advisory Council. Dr. Meadows and the Student Advisory Council will be talking about ways that they can address that systematically throughout the curriculum… And, you know, there’s a gender equity policy that was passed by the school board this past year. And that we are educating faculty about that right now,” Collins said.

The LSSD Administration is aware of the discrimination issue with Lake Stevens. Dr. Collins is interested in making teachers more aware of discrimination to prevent it from happening in schools.