CONCRETE — As the leader of a small rural school district, sometimes a superintendent needs to wear many hats.
Few know that better than Concrete School District Superintendent Barb Hawkings.
During her time as superintendent, Hawkings has filled many roles — everything from a gardener to a bicycle-riding instructor to the district’s elementary school principal.
“We care about our kids,” Hawkings said. “We’re small enough that you can know every kid and know what their needs are and help them to obtain the best life possible.”
After 11 years as the district’s superintendent — and 36 years in the district — Hawkings is retiring at the end of the month.
“The kids; I think that’ll be what I miss most,” she said. “I don’t know how I’ll fill that void, but I’ll work on it. I’ll miss the staff.”
A 1976 graduate of Concrete High School, Hawkings started working in the district as a coach while attending Western Washington University.
From there, she transitioned into the role of a para-educator, then teacher, and eventually becoming the elementary school principal.
“I thought I’d found my place (in education),” Hawkings said.
After a series of superintendents left the district, she said she was persuaded to apply for the role herself — and got it.
Since then, she said some of her greatest accomplishments are ones that directly affect students.
“I believe we’ve got a great art program going, elementary through high school,” she said.
The district has made an effort to incorporate art into more of its curriculum districtwide.
Hawkings is also proud of the district’s flourishing Farm to School and music programs, she said.
“The fact that we, as a small school district, offer strings as well as band ... not many districts our size have that option,” she said. “The fact that we do band in the sixth-grade, that’s an accomplishment.”
During her time as superintendent, Hawkings helped establish the Northwest Career and Technical Academy in Mount Vernon.
Located next to Skagit Valley College, the academy serves students in Skagit and Whatcom counties.
“We didn’t have a skills center,” Hawkings said. “It gives our students certification in the different (vocational) areas.”
Hawkings hopes to see the emphasis on vocational and career and technical education (CTE) continue with her successor Wayne Barrett, who has a background in CTE.
“I want to see our expectations of our students continue,” Hawkings said. “I’m hoping they can reduce the dropout rate.”
When she retires, Hawkings said she intends to go camping — without having to take her cellphone for district business — and spend time with her grandchildren.
She said she plans to remain active in several Concrete projects and organizations, including the district’s Farm to School Program.