Mount Si High, meet your new principal

Deb Hay takes over as head of Mount Si High School.

If there is one thing that has undoubtedly influenced how Deb Hay, the new principal at Mount Si High School, performs her job, it’s the role her family has played in shaping her.

For the single mother, raising a now adult son who is gender nonconforming, and having an 11-year-old grandson who is autistic, has taught her, among other things, the importance of building an inclusive community and providing unique opportunities for each student.

It’s why during her last 6 years as principal at Lake Stevens High School, she would tell parents her proudest accomplishment was that despite a 2,100-student school, they found a way to build programming designed for each specific student.

The commitment to each student is what Hay, a special education teacher turned administrator, said drew her to her newest role as principal at Mount Si High School — highlighting the district’s investments to the arts, co-teaching methods and special education.

“I just want [students] to have what they want, what’s going to bring joy,” she said. “[If] individually they’re getting what they need, then they’re part of a collective and the collective is part of the inner community.”

Proudly raised in Tacoma’s Parkland neighborhood and an alumni of nearby Pacific Lutheran University, Hay puts emphasis on being proud of where you come from.

“I’ve interacted with kids who came from Parkland and weren’t proud of it, and so they would say they came from University Place or something,” she said. “I’d go, ‘honey you grew up in Parkland.’ I just remind kids to be proud of where they came from.”

Hay started her career as a special education teacher at the Auburn Riverside High School in 1998. Early on in that job, she served as department chair of the special education department, and learned she had a knack for communicating with difficult-to-reach kids.

As a result, she worked alongside an assistant principal to help reduce suspensions to keep students in the classroom — and prevent them from being kicked out.

“Back then, you could do as much suspension as you wanted,” she said. “I always in my heart never wanted to kick them out of school. I always wanted to figure out how we could support them and change their behavior.”

Working alongside those assistant principals, Hay said, gave her the wherewithal to obtain a master’s degree. Loving the opportunity to meet a lot of kids and make a bigger impact, Hay took on a role as an assistant principal at Bethel High School in Spanaway. That was followed by subsequent admin jobs at Graham-Kapowsin, Steilacoom and Lake Stevens high schools.

“I’ve literally loved everywhere I’ve been and I’ve found wherever I’ve been to be the special place at the moment,” she said. “Each group of kids has been different and that’s what taught me the most. When a new student shows up to the school, they can show up with just about anything, and I can partner or support or give ideas and guidance.”

With students resuming school on Aug. 30, Hay said she is excited to meet them and watch how they grow.

“It’s my favorite thing to watch them come in as ninth-graders and see how they grow and turn into seniors,” she said. “I can’t wait to be at the first assembly, to meet them in the hallway, and go to my first classroom.”