LAKE STEVENS — Ken Collins thought he’d be a lifelong football coach, much like his father.
It didn’t exactly happen that way.
He started in the Lake Stevens School District about 30 years ago. In that time he has been a coach, teacher, principal and administrator.
Now he’s next in line to become superintendent, taking over for Superintendent Amy Beth Cook. She is set to retire at the end of the school year after 38 years in the district, with the past 10 at the helm.
Collins, 61, grew up in Cashmere, east of the Cascade Range. Both of his parents were teachers, and his father Jack Collins was a longtime football coach for Cashmere High School. He’s in the Washington State Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Ken Collins graduated from Washington State University. The New England Patriots selected him to play linebacker with the 197th overall pick of the 1982 NFL Draft. A couple of years later he was out of the NFL and began to teach at Marysville Pilchuck High School. He also worked there as an assistant football coach.
Around that time he earned a master’s degree in administration from Central Washington University.
He was hired at Lake Stevens in 1990 as a head football coach and continued to teach subjects such as social studies and U.S. history.
Years later, in 2004, he became assistant principal of Lake Stevens High School. That school year he continued to coach, but soon after decided to focus on his new position in administration.
He was named principal of Lake Stevens High School the next year, where he stayed until 2011. He then started working as assistant superintendent of human resources, and now has been assistant superintendent of teaching and learning for the past two years.
He received his doctorate in education from the University of Washington in 2018.
“I hate to admit I went to the U-Dub in any way, shape or form,” he said with a laugh, “but that was a really great program that focused on equity and inclusion and equitable educational practices. So it was a great way for me to prepare for this next role.”
A few months ago, Collins learned Cook planned to retire. He let the school board know he was interested in taking over.
The board thought Collins would be a great fit, but still took its time to think about it, school board President Mari Taylor said. In the end the board concluded that Collins was the right choice, without having to go through a big national search.
“Ken’s whole heart and soul are here,” Taylor said.
Both Collins and Taylor look forward to moving on from the pandemic.
“I think one of the things I’m most excited to work on is thinking about disparities and inequities that have really come to the surface as we have moved through COVID,” Taylor said. “ … We have learned so much, and there’s potential to build on that resiliency as we come out of this.”
Collins expects the district may have to find different ways to teach students, as things likely won’t go back to exactly how they were before the pandemic.
The past year has shown that school systems can change quickly, he said.
He also hopes to address equity, diversity and inclusion in the district.
“It starts with making sure we are diverse in our hiring practices, and that’s something we definitely need to work on,” Collins said. “Our students need to see teachers who look like them who have the same kind of cultural diversity as them.”
Collins’ first day on the job is July 1.
Stephanie Davey: 425-339-3192; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @stephrdavey.