State Board of Education picks Connie Fletcher

September 8, 2009

By Staff

Issaquah School Board member Connie Fletcher testifies earlier this year before the Washington State Board of Education in Olympia. By Issaquah School District

Issaquah School Board member Connie Fletcher testifies earlier this year before the Washington State Board of Education in Olympia. By Issaquah School District

Issaquah School Board member Connie Fletcher was selected as the newest member of the Washington State Board of Education on Aug 31.

“It is a real honor,” Fletcher said. “I’m really looking forward to it.”

The state board directs education policy, like graduation requirements and curriculum, for the state.

“They set policy that makes a big impact on our local communities,” Fletcher said. “So, hopefully, I can not only do good for our own district, but hopefully improve education for children all over the state.”

After 16 years, Fletcher announced this spring that she would not seek re-election for her district Director 2 position, representing the southwest portion of the district. After her announcement, state board officials approached her about a position, she said.

She will resign from the Issaquah board at its next meeting Sept. 9. The resignation takes immediate effect; Fletcher cannot serve on both boards simultaneously.

Fletcher has served two terms as board president and six years as the board’s legislative representative. She worked to implement several pieces of legislation to improve education and she chaired the Achievement Gap Task Force. Fletcher also served as president for the state school board organization and has traveled throughout the state and nation on behalf of education initiatives.

“Connie has been a tremendous advocate for children in the Issaquah School District,” said Superintendent Steve Rasmussen. “She has a selfless heart, and every action she takes is with the intent to improve this system to make sure all students succeed, especially those who might need extra support. We should all be proud of her progression to this next level, where her depth of education knowledge and compassion for children will spread statewide.”

Since someone will be elected in November, remaining board members don’t need to fill Fletcher’s seat before hand. Two candidates, Wright Noel and Marnie Maraldo, are seeking the position.

“She has an excellent way engaging our representatives and our community in Issaquah,” said Issaquah School Board President Brian Deagle said. “It is going to take a lot to replace her, and we’re not going to replace all she brings to the board with just the individual that fills her position. All of us on the board will have to step up and fill those.”

“When I started as a new member, she was already in her second term and was very helpful in orienting me and taking me under her wing,” said fellow board member Jan Woldseth. “She is also a driving factor to our continuing effort to make sure every student in the district has a quality experience.”

The state board, a 16-member panel of education representatives and professionals, is responsible for setting policies to improve achievement, graduation rates and post-secondary preparedness for all students. Fourteen members vote; two student representatives don’t.

Board members serve four-year terms and are reimbursed for travel to attend meetings and are given a small stipend, $200, for each meeting they attend.

To state board officials’ knowledge, they have not had any other Issaquah citizen hold a position in the board, a spokesman said.

After a two-day interview process, Fletcher was unanimously voted the board’s newest member.

“Connie has all the attributes that we are looking for,” Warren Smith, vice chair of the board, said in a press release. “She understands the impact of state policy on local districts.”

“She has always been committed at every level, at the ground level with the kids, in the boardroom and in the Legislature advocating for our community,” Woldseth said. “She has more than talked the stuff. She has lived it and really done the walk.”

After local board members accept Fletcher’s resignation, she will join the state board as a voting member at its Sept. 17 and 18 meetings. Ironically, it falls during the same time she is inducted as the Kiwanis Club of Issaquah’s newest president.

Fletcher talked with The Press about her service and what’s next.

Q: Why did you run for your school board position in 1992?

A: I ran because someone asked me. I had served on several districtwide committees and Superintendent Kateri Brow saw something in me that made her think I would be a good school board member. There was an open seat and she encouraged me to run. I wasn’t able to at the time, because my children were small, but she planted a seed. When the seat became available again in four years, my family and I were ready.

Q: What is your fondest memory as a representative for Issaquah?

A: There are too many over the course of 16 years to mention just one. Every graduation; new teacher luncheon; the first class of National Board Certified Teachers; every high school musical, choir, band or orchestra concert I’ve had the privilege to attend; the Issaquah Robotics Society presentation before the state Legislature, which resulted in funding for dozens of teams all across the state.

Q: What was the greatest challenge you encountered as a board member, personally?

A: Early in my tenure, the school board was presented with information that put the advisability of continuing the superintendent’s contract in question. I was the one “no” vote in a 4-1 vote for rolling over the contract for a third year. After criminal charges were filed a couple of months later, the board put him on leave. As president of the board, I was in the eye of a media storm and presided over the decision to buy out his contract.

Q: What is the greatest challenge the district has faced in your time as a board member? How did you solve it?

A: The greatest challenge we faced as a district was handling the incredible amount of growth in the district, at the same time that we were implementing House Bill 1209, the education reform act of 1993. The district has doubled in size since 1993, from about 8,000 students to our nearly 16,000 today. There was a period of about five years when we were the fasted growing district in the state. Crafting and passing bond measures to keep up with our growth in enrollment took a great deal of the boards and administration’s time and attention. At the same time, huge changes in state and federal accountability for student achievement were being imposed on local districts. The WASL and No Child Left Behind still today create anxiety and frustration among teachers.

Q: What decision, as a board and personally, are you most proud to have made?

A: As a board, we have insisted on rigorous, long-term financial planning and conservative fiscal management. Despite chronic underfunding and a huge financial disadvantage relative to other districts, we are financially very sound. I’m also proud of the board’s focus on governance. We can see that this focus is making a positive impact all the way from the board room to the classroom. On a personal level, I had the privilege of chairing the efforts to develop a policy guide for school boards on closing the Achievement Gap.

Q: If there was anything you would do over again, what would it be?

A: The teacher strike in 2002 has taken us years to recover from. We have heard from teachers that the court-ordered injunction was hurtful, deepening wounds and making the healing more difficult.

Q: What will you miss most about serving on the board in this community?

A: I will miss the people I have worked with over the years. I’m not moving, and I’ll still be involved in education and the community, but there just won’t be the opportunities to work closely with our teachers, staff, volunteers and board members on meaningful projects.

Q: How and when did you decide to submit your application to the state Board of Education?

A: After I made the announcement that I was not going to run for a fifth term, I was approached to consider running for the state board. An unexpected vacancy on the state board moved the time line up.

Q: How do you hope to contribute to the state Board of Education?

A: I’ll bring a local school district perspective to state-level policy making and a commitment to increasing academic achievement for all students. I’m eager to make a difference at the state level as we continue the work to equip students with the 21st century skills and knowledge they need to be successful, global citizens. Their welfare and the prosperity of our state and nation depend on it.

Five things the state Board of Education has done recently

Helped pass House Bill 2261, the Basic Education Reform bill, through the Legislature, which created a new accountability system, hopefully to replace No Child Left Behind.

Passed additional graduation requirements for the class of 2018; instead of graduating with 19 credits students will need 24.

Reviewed kindergarten through 12th-grade mathematics standards and made curriculum recommendations.

Are reviewing kindergarten through 12th-grade science standards and will make curriculum recommendations.

Set new mathematics graduation requirements for the class of 2013. Students must graduate with three, instead of two, math credits.

Five things the state Board of Education has done recently
4Helped pass House Bill 2261, the Basic Education Reform bill, through the Legislature, which created a new accountability system, hopefully to replace No Child Left Behind.
4Passed additional graduation requirements for the class of 2018; instead of graduating with 19 credits students will need 24.
4Reviewed kindergarten through 12th-grade mathematics standards and made curriculum recommendations.
4Are reviewing kindergarten through 12th-grade science standards and will make curriculum recommendations.
4Set new mathematics graduation requirements for the class of 2013. Students must graduate with three, instead of two, math credits.

Chantelle Lusebrink: 392-6434, ext. 241, or clusebrink@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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