Frank Hewins: Superintendent of the Year

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The 2017 statewide superintendent of the year is Dr. Frank Hewins, whose many connections to UW Tacoma help power the success of Franklin Pierce School District.

Dr. Frank Hewins, 2018 Superintendent of the Year“Please congratulate the 2018 Washington Superintendent of the Year, Dr. Frank Hewins. Frank has been a staunch supporter of UW Tacoma’s education programs and a friend and colleague for many years. Well-deserved, Frank!”

It was with those words that Dr. Ginger MacDonald, professor and director of UW Tacoma’s doctoral program in educational leadership (Ed.D.), passed along the news of Dr. Hewins’s honor, bestowed by the Washington Association of School Administrators (WASA).

Hewins is superintendent of Franklin Pierce Schools, which has about 8,000 students in the unincorporated areas of Parkland, Midland and Summit south and east of Tacoma. It is a rapidly growing part of the county, transitioning from rural to urban-like density: since 2000, the population of the area has grown by more than 15%. Major employers include Joint Base Lewis-McChord to the west and the Frederickson industrial area, with Boeing and Toray, to the south.

In an interview with the Seattle Times, Hewins outlined several challenges and accomplishments during his 30 years in the district. As reported by the Times, in 2007, the year Hewins became superintendent, “one of its two high schools was labelled a ‘drop out factory.’ But the district’s overall graduation rate has since soared, to 85 percent last year.” Hewins said that, “Our Latino and black students now graduate at higher rates than our white kids.”

“We view our diversity as a strength,” said Hewins. “We have a pretty sophisticated system of supports for academic behavior and attendance.”

Those supports that Hewins mentions are part of a program called Multiple Tier System of Supports (MTSS), developed at the K-8 level in the district through an ongoing partnership going back eight years with UW Tacoma School of Education’s Drs. Marcy Stein and Diane Kinder. The framework addresses K-8 students’ social and emotional learning needs as well as general instruction, ensuring that each student receives the level of support needed.

The WASA commendation accompanying Hewins’s award notes that the school district “has achieved exceptional outcomes by focusing on … thoughtful and rigorous professional development for all staff....” Part of that professional development is the training of student teachers from UW Tacoma that the district supports. In fact, when a federal grant to help pay for these student-teachers’ instructional coaches ran out, the district stepped up. “Frank found the resources in the Franklin Pierce budget to pay the instructional coaches, as well as a district liaison to UW Tacoma, and does to this day,” said Dr. Kinder. “This kind of support is almost unheard of. In a sense, they are training their own new teachers given that a large share of our grads are hired into Franklin Pierce.”

Robert MacGregor, program coordinator of UW Tacoma’s Educational Administration Program, which certifies principals and superintendents, and Rich Knuth, his predecessor in that role, pointed out other ways that Hewins is connected to UW Tacoma and the School of Education.

“He has been a great supporter of our program,” said MacGregor. He advocated with UW and the state for the creation of the principal certification program. Then, later, when the state passed legislation allowing UW Tacoma to add doctoral-level degree programs, Hewins again advocated with UW and the state for the approval of a new Ed.D. He then served on a focus group that helped set its direction. And he mentored an Ed.D. student, Tom Edwards, now a middle-school principal in Franklin Pierce, through the program.

Hewins works with UW Tacoma on creating a college-going culture among K-12 students. The Franklin Pierce district is a member of Pathways to Promise, a UW Tacoma partnership with 32 high schools in nine districts running from Kent in King County to Bethel in Pierce County. Students in Franklin Pierce have access to transparent, assured admission criteria and college-bound programming on topics such as how to start a college or career search, and how to complete college application and financial aid forms.

Hewins is also a member of Pierce County Strong, a coalition of school districts and higher-ed institutions, including UW Tacoma, coordinated by the Pierce County Educational Service District. According to its website, the group is “committed to improving postsecondary readiness, enrollment and completion through improvements in communication, data sharing and systems coordination.”

Dr. Rachel Endo, dean of the UW Tacoma School of Education, said, “Dr. Hewins and his team have been an incredible asset to the School of Education’s Special Education Program. The district has been a long-time partner helping us prepare highly effective teachers of Special Education. Dr. Hewins is a dedicated school leader who clearly is at the forefront of closing some of the most persistent equity gaps in K-12 education, particularly for students with special needs, which matches the School of Education’s mission of providing all learners with an inclusive and rigorous education. ”

As the state’s Superintendent of the Year, Hewins will be a candidate for the national Superintendent of the Year award, to be presented in February by the American Association of School Administrators at its annual conference in Nashville, Tenn.

Written by: 
John Burkhardt / December 6, 2017
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or