Bob Hagin is working on a modern-day version of the one-room schoolhouse. It starts with a cavernous rental space and countless stacks of disassembled furniture pieces.
Welcome to the Northwest Liberty School, a culmination of Hagin’s 24 years in education.
“The situation in that office is similar to what I’m doing with the school,” he said. “It’s a whole lot of pieces coming together.”
The veteran teacher-administrator plans to provide customized learning experiences for all types of students, from medically-fragile and at-risk youth to advanced students in need of an extra challenge.
“I figure I can try something new or be satisfied with traditional schools,” he said. “The needs are just far greater than that.”
Hagin isn’t alone in his thinking. There’s a growing chorus of concern over the state’s educational system, with a dozen school districts suing for special-education funding and Washington classrooms ranking among the nation’s most crowded.
Lina Morrison has taught with the Northshore School District’s Homeschool Networks program for 10 years. She suggested that Hagin’s vision is hatching at just the right time.
“I’ve never seen the educational system in the swirl that it’s in right now,” she said. “There are incredible things you can do in a one-on-one environment.”
Hagin has the credentials to follow through with his plan. He’s been with the Northshore School District for more than 20 years, the last eight of which he spent working in alternative education as a contract teacher for the Homeschool Networks program and co-principal of the Secondary Summer Academy.
“We had the type of intervention you can’t get at a large high school,” he said. “I’m taking some of the principles I’ve learned there and applying a few other dimensions. I have the experience to make this work, and I just know we can make a difference with people.”
The Secondary Summer Academy has added new accelerated-learning, Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) and literacy courses during Hagin’s watch, while more than doubling its size. The program also maintains a failure rate of less than 2 percent.
“His connection skills are exquisite,” Morrison said. “I admire that he can work with these kids but have sensitivity, as well.”
Hagin began his career as a first-grade teacher in Stanwood, but moved a year later to the Colville Indian Reservation, where he became the sole teacher and superintendent of a one-room school.
That’s where he learned that bigger is not always better.
“A lot of kids just need contact — that personal contact,” he said.
Northwest Liberty promises a combination of counseling, personalized education and help navigating the world of student resources.
Hagin’s goal is to not only teach kids, but act as an orchestrator. That means using all the resources that are available, from online classes to job shadows.
“If kids can apply what they’re doing to something bigger, that’s when the changes take place,” he said. “It’s not just about the diploma, it’s what happens afterward. That’s where the rubber meets the road.”
Hagin will continue working with the Northshore School District as he pursues his goal of founding an alternative private school.
• For information, visit www.northwestlibertyschool.org.