Susan Hanson, principal of Vashon High School for 13 years, announced her retirement last week.
Hanson, who made the announcement in a letter to VHS staff on Nov. 26, will retire as principal in June but will stay on as a transition principal until February of 2014 to provide support to the new principal. The district will conduct a search for Hanson’s replacement this spring.
In an interview, Hanson, 65, didn’t give a specific reason for her retirement, but said she made the decision after a lot of thought and simply felt it was time.
“One knows when it’s time,” she said. “I think it’s a wise decision for me and my family, and I hope it turns out to be a good decision for the school district as well.”
Hanson has worked in public education for 43 years, 30 of them on Vashon. She taught middle and high school on the Island before becoming dean of students at Vashon High School. After four years as dean of students, a position equivalent to assistant principal, she earned a master’s degree and became the school’s principal.
This year Hanson was chosen as Nisqually League principal of the year for the second time. The award is selected by other principals in the league based on school performance.
Superintendent Michael Soltman said that in 13 years Hanson has successfully seen the high school through some challenging times in the school district and become known as a leader with a special ability to connect with students and reach out to kids who struggle.
Eric Heffelfinger, who has taught at the high school for three years, agreed. He said students who have transferred from other school districts have told him Hanson worked with them in ways that other teachers and principals had not.
“Susan is a wonderful advocate for the students here at the high school, and I think it will be a big loss to the district in my opinion,” he said.
Soltman said he was grateful that Hanson was willing to stay on as the school transitioned to a new principal and that she would be vital in helping with the move into its new building next year.
“It’s very important to me that the new principal can focus on being an instructional leader, and I think it would be terribly distracting to a new principal to deal with the logistics of the move,” he said.
The school board will discuss the search for Hanson’s replacement at its next meeting on Dec. 13.
As for Hanson, she said her retirement would be bittersweet and emphasized her gratefulness to everyone she has worked with at the high school. In her letter to staff, she noted that under her leadership, VHS was named a federal No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon School, a Washington State School of Distinction and a Bronze Medal winner in the U.S. News and World Report’s edition of “America’s Best High Schools.”
“I am very proud of the accomplishments of Vashon Island High School and StudentLink and FamilyLink,” she said in an interview. “The staff serve our students well and are passionate about what they do. It’s been an honor to work with them.”