Washougal High principal promoted

District searching for replacement after hiring Aaron Hansen to be an assistant superintendent

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Washougal High School (WHS) principal Aaron Hansen chats with a group of students Monday at WHS. Hansen will assume the role of assistant superintendent for human resources and student support for the Washougal School District next school year. (Contributed photo by Rene Carroll)

The search is on for a new Washougal High School principal, now that the school’s current leader, Aaron Hansen, has accepted a new role as the Washougal School District’s assistant superintendent for human resources and student support.

The district announced Hansen’s promotion May 14.

The district is looking internally at Washougal School District (WSD) candidates before taking the search for a new principal outside the district.

Hansen, who has worked for WSD for 17 years, including nine years as the Washougal High School (WHS) principal, said he’s a little sad to leave WHS and a bit nervous about his new position, but that mostly he’s excited about his future.

“I feel like being a principal is good preparation for this role,” Hansen said of his new job at the district, which takes effect at the start of the 2019-20 school year. “To succeed in this role, I think you need to be organized, work collaboratively, be a good listener, seek to understand and be solution focused, and those things are important to me.”

Hansen has been preparing for a career change like this for some time. Two years ago he completed a superintendent certification program through Washington State University.

“I went into that program because I wanted to know more about how decisions are made, not only by the district but also the school board,” he said. “It was a great experience. I learned a lot about the executive decision-making process. From there I knew I’d be interested in moving into an assistant superintendent role.”

After current WSD human resources director Marian Young announced her retirement in January, WSD administrators created a new role to include responsibilities such as student services and equity as well as human resources.

“We decided to reframe the position just a little bit, knowing that (assistant superintendent) Renae’s (Burson) focus is on teaching and learning,” said WSD superintendent Mary Templeton. “I’m hopeful that she’ll continue to put her energy into (those areas).”

The district posted the new job internally, and when Hansen applied, Templeton knew she didn’t need to keep the job open for very much longer.

“Aaron is probably one of the most engaging administrators that I’ve ever seen,” Templeton said. “He’s able to get people to lean in and come to conversation and problem-solve together. That’s (due to his) personality and quick wit and intellect. He’s connective. He draws people to him, and I think that’s important.”

Templeton said the process of finding a new WHS principal is underway and that she has already reached out to WHS staff members to better understand the qualities they want to see in a new school leader.

“We are eager to see Washougal (School District) rise to be one of the top performers, and what happens at the high school is critical for that mission statement,” Templeton said. “Whoever the person is that we hire, they will have a vision for excellence. They will have grit, determination, passion and compassion to make sure they are a leader that people are influenced by and want to follow.”

New position ‘a transition’ requiring deep skillset

Hansen will oversee the district’s nursing services, K-12 counseling program and 504 compliance process; supervise the human resources department staff; meet regularly with labor association leadership; supervise the recruiting, hiring and evaluating of staff members; and serve as the district’s equity officer.

“It’s a transition, but his skillset is deep, and he’s got the ability to work with families around social and emotional wellness, as well as student discipline, preventative measures, those sorts of things,” Templeton said. “He also has a lot of bargaining experience as we think about the human resources component as well.

“The position that I’m asking him to take on, he’s already doing a lot of those are things,” Templeton continued. “He’s already working with his staff to support and grow them. He’s also working with families and students. Those are some of the skill sets that you need to be successful in this job.”

WSD director of technology Les Brown, who has known Hansen for 18 years, said the former WHS principal is “approachable and likeable.”

“He’s an excellent public speaker. He’s self effacing, and uses self-directed humor to defuse situations,” Brown said. “He’s always quick to own it when makes a mistake, and he removes barriers to get things done. Those are great attributes in both (human resources and student support) roles. He’s got a willingness to jump in and problem-solve with people, which will serve him well when he’s working with the associations. He’s focused on finding solutions.”

Hansen served as an associate principal and athletic director before being named WHS principal. Previously, he was a math coach, providing instructional leadership for teachers in grades 6-12. He began his WSD tenure at the former Excelsior High School, where he was a math and science teacher. Prior to joining WSD he was a math and science teacher at Rogers High School in Spokane for eight years.

“It’s going to be difficult (to leave the principal position),” he said. “This is the greatest job I’ve ever had. I told the staff members many times that every day I get up and look forward to going to work. I’m going to miss working with students. With the position the high school is in, it’s a good time (to leave) because a lot of good things are happening. I feel good about somebody else coming in and getting started.”