District officials, teachers rest easy with new contract approved

June 15, 2010

The Issaquah School Board unanimously approved a four-year teachers’ contract at its meeting June 9.

Teachers and district officials reached a tentative agreement June 1. The contract was approved by the Issaquah Education Association membership June 8.

There are several policy and language revisions to the contract this year, but there are no raises in teachers’ cost-of-living adjustments or to their direct salary next year, Director of Communications Sara Niegowski wrote in an e-mail.

However, all certificated employees, like teachers, therapists and nurses, have access to more money from the Professional Growth Incentive Fund and there are larger stipends available for employees who take on leadership roles.

Changes to the contract include:

  • Language changes including higher-level technology training for teachers.
  • All teachers by the third year of the contract must have an up-to-date online presence, like a website.
  • School calendars must be established three years in advance.
  • Additional well-defined individual, professional growth goals. Includes teachers and supervisors collaborating to create them and at least one goal tied to school, district or state learning goals.
  • Increases from $11,000 to $15,000 for elementary instructional leadership roles.
  • Stipend increases for therapists, pathologists and nurses who assume leadership roles to $3,000.
  • The Professional Growth Incentive Fund grows from $1,500 to $1,750.
  • The teacher’s current contract expires Aug. 31. The new contract expires Aug. 31, 2014.

In addition, district officials agreed to continue to fund the two professional improvement days the state has cut to keep all employees salary steady.

Read more

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ArtEAST eyes new art center in old Lewis Hardware space

June 15, 2010

ArtEAST members have signed a letter of intent to lease Lewis Hardware for a future arts center.

Lease negotiations will proceed with the building’s owners this week, artEAST Executive Director Karen Abel said.

“It has been a goal of ours since the beginning to build an arts center,” Abel said.

The group started a grassroots fundraising operation prior to the June 4 Issaquah ArtWalk to raise $20,000 needed to proceed with signing the lease and paying rent on the property, should they get it. The group raised that well in advance of their June 11 deadline, thanks to generous donations from the community, Abel said.

If they do get the lease, the $20,000 will help artEAST officials sustain rent on the storefront.

Read more

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Off The Press

June 15, 2010

Reality TV an easier dating experience than reality

So, why do you want to find love on “The Bachelor?”

That question, or some form of it, was asked to each of 200 women sitting before casting directors June 13.

ABC’s well-known franchise rolled into the greater Seattle-area, to find throngs of single women and yes, even a few men, that showed up for their chance to find love on the national television show.

Chantelle Lusebrink Press reporter

The dating scene leaves a lot to be desired, trust me. So, it’s not surprising two locals have landed on the national show.

First, there was Bevin Powers, then 28, who landed on 2007’s “The Bachelor: An Officer and a Gentleman.”

And most recently, Issaquah resident and businessman John Crivello, 32, made an appearance. In case, you aren’t engulfed in reality TV, he’s the guy who had enough gusto to actually propose to this season’s bachelorette, Ali Fedotowsky, 25, during the first show May 24.

I headed to the casting call with several girlfriends to see what exactly was going on. More directly, why would people risk public heartbreak — not to mention a complete invasion of privacy since you’re asked questions like “Have you ever had a restraining order issued against you?” and filmed 24/7 — to make whatever reality of love happen?

So, why do you want to find love on “The Bachelor?”

What followed as an answer from one of the women who attended the event was entirely unexpected. Simply stated in her written application, “Reality hasn’t worked for me.”

With the advent of telephone chat lines, speed dating, blind dating, Internet dating sites, tweeting and social networking, plus all the traditional ways of meeting someone, one would think there are plenty of ways to find love in reality. But judging by the lineup, which began at about 7:30 a.m., those realities hadn’t worked for many people.

As one would imagine, the archetypical stereotypes were represented: The wannabe “child star” who came to the casting armed with professional headshots and a helicopter mom to boss around; the misunderstood artist-type, who chain-smoked in line and wore a choker resembling a dog collar; the divorcee, who hadn’t watched the show enough to know it’s rare that anyone older than 35 is selected; the quiet professional that never made time for love, but has a doctorate of some sort; and then there was the showstopper, gold lamé stilettos, a flashy, fuchsia dress and a coif that would put Dolly Parton’s to shame.

More surprising, however, was how “normal” many of the hopeful bachelors and bachelorettes appeared: young professionals, generally photogenic, well-groomed and from observation, generally intelligent and ambitious.

So, at the end of the day, what does this long-shot chance of getting cast give to these contestants actually looking for love, not fame? Read more

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Press Editorial

June 15, 2010

Despite chatter to the contrary, the Central Issaquah Plan that will shape the future of the present business district remains very much unfinished, as a task force of city board members, business owners, environmentalists and residents works to complete a recommendation.

Mayor Ava Frisinger and the City Council hope the final plan guides development on 915 acres south of Interstate 90 in coming decades.

The conversation about a possible downtown park complex and greenbelt through the urban core, an efficient inner-city transit system, urban residences amidst commercial districts and other exciting prospects are still visions. Stay tuned to learn more this fall as the vision comes to the community for input.

When the task force delivers a draft in early fall, the real work begins. Planning Policy Commission members will work to refine the plan, and then send the draft to the City Council.

The long process will also allow plenty of opportunities for the public to weigh in on the final result. In the meantime, residents may attend task force meetings, although that discussion is limited to task force members.

Though tangible results remain years from fruition, the final document should provide a sweeping roadmap to redevelopment in the city’s commercial core.

Central Issaquah could be reshaped from car-centric sprawl defined by strip malls into a walkable community a place where — to borrow a phrase from the Issaquah Highlands developer — residents can live, work and play in close proximity to amenities.

Though the plan could remake Issaquah as we know it, we have faith in the task force and its chairman, former City Councilman Joe Forkner, to preserve Issaquah’s character and small-town charm. Early hints at the final plan hint at emphasis on greenbelts and mass transit — both encouraging signs for a “green” city such as ours.

Though the plan remains a work in progress, the city and Rowley Properties have already taken the steps necessary to turn 90 acres of strip-mall suburbia into part of the final vision. The public-private partnership shows the willingness of the city to use private dollars and ingenuity for the public good. Frisinger and her team, as well as Rowley executives, deserve credit for pursuing the agreement.

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To The Editor

June 15, 2010

Public paths

Trail should be cleaned up and patrolled

There is a beautiful, tree-shaded walk along the east side of our community center all the way to where Second Avenue connects with Front Street South.

Beautiful, that is, except for all the trash and litter the high school kids who gather there leave behind. It’s a place where people walk their dogs and their kids in strollers — a little jewel of a place — but it is ruined with the hoards of smoking and littering kids.  We’ve even seen what looked like it might have been a drug deal going down in the trees in there.

I would hope to see this area cleaned up and patrolled. I realize our police force is more than busy already, but it seems such a shame to have this beautiful place look like a slum.

Barbara Extract


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Public Meetings

June 15, 2010

June 16, 6 p.m.

Park Board

Agenda: member orientation

Issaquah Trails House, 110 Bush St.

June 17, 6:30 p.m.

Planning Policy Commission

Council Chambers, City Hall South,

135 E. Sunset Way

June 21, 7:30 p.m.

City Council regular meeting

Agenda: Ebi property development agreement

Council Chambers, City Hall South

135 E. Sunset Way

June 23, 7 p.m.

Human Services Commission

Coho Room, City Hall, 130 E. Sunset Way

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Rapid Response

June 15, 2010

What type of leader should city officials choose for the next city administrator?

The mayor is being paid to be a full-time mayor and should therefore be running the city.

— Jackie Thomas, Issaquah

What steps should Issaquah School District officials take to reduce expenses or increase funding?

First, they should figure out how much it costs to educate students and adopt a plan to fund that — then start looking for ways to increase funding or reduce expenses.

— Bryan Weinstein, Issaquah

As with all business these days, more is expected with less. Simplifying the funding process to a student/per capita ratio per school will allow for huge reduction in administrative costs and provide consistent funding across all districts. Consider privatizing education. Emphasize tax incentives for home schooling and private school choice.

— Mark Bowers, Issaquah

Since we can’t cut much further and can’t get more money, send all the kids to Bellevue or Mercer Island for schooling — they are paid much more per student by the state.

— Fred Nystrom, Issaquah

Why do they always look for more money? Just use some of the “hopefully educated” administrators to really look to making efficient cutting from within. Each taxpayer has to do it within his or her own home.

— Ken Sessler, Issaquah

No easy solutions here. After the requisite audits to eliminate waste, bureaucratic impediments, brainstorming more efficient and effective ways to achieve results, lobbying for state and federal grants, and charging fees for participating in extra- curricular activities (providing scholarships to those whose parents can’t afford them), there seems to be no choice other than to increase property taxes and/or seek approval of another bond issue.

— Ray Extract, Issaquah

Administrators do not add value to the education product. Start cutting administrative positions and reducing salaries.

— Hank Thomas, Issaquah

Many people do not realize that school districts are highly regulated. School districts can “work smart” within this framework, but long-term solutions will be crafted by the state of Washington.

— Barbara diMichele, Issaquah

Eliminate management positions — one principal and one assistant principal per school, for instance — and duplicate positions.

— Jim Harris, Issaquah

Salaries and benefits comprise 83 percent of expenses, so that’s the only area where you could make meaningful reductions. Focus instead on increasing the levy lid.

— Mel Morgan, Issaquah

City officials point to new businesses and new construction as signs of economic recovery. Do you believe Issaquah is emerging from the recession?

I don’t believe Issaquah has emerged, because banks still haven’t let go of money for much major new development and there are still empty stores.

— Michele Forkner, Issaquah

If this definition is used, there are new businesses opening in Issaquah so perhaps we are recovering.

— Jackie Thomas, Issaquah

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Never-say-quit teacher leaves a final lesson

June 15, 2010

Degenerative disease cuts short beloved teacher’s career

At right, Steve Birdsall (left), Maple Hills Elementary fifth-grade teacher, keeps his students in line for a trip outside for their end-of-year class photo and video. By Greg Farrar

If you ask anyone at Maple Hills Elementary School who Steve Birdsall is, they’ll know just whom you’re talking about.

Quick to smile, always armed with a sense of humor, a tireless advocate for children’s education and the “best teacher ever,” students and faculty say. Read more

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Quitting smoking is now easier than ever

June 15, 2010

When asked, most people who smoke or chew tobacco admit that they don’t enjoy it anymore. Typically, the reasons include cost, health, family and friends’ comments, and the fact that it’s not socially acceptable.

Heidi Henson

And yet in King County, alarmingly, one in five high school seniors smokes, as well as 4 percent of pregnant woman. On the cost front, newly implemented tobacco taxes passed in Olympia have now made the average cost of a pack of cigarettes more than $8.

Sometimes, tobacco users imagine being free of these burdens – with extra money in their pockets, taking deep breaths without rattling and wheezing – but they can’t seem to put it down for good. The No. 1 stumbling block is stress, and not everyone knows how to quit. Considering the state’s increased tobacco taxes alone, there’s one more reason to find out.

The good news is that there are more ways to quit than ever before – from support groups to medicines. After helping people kick the habit for 10 years, I know there is one that works for you.

Quitting tobacco is a decision. The rest is about follow-through. You might use medications, nicotine-replacement therapy, physician assistance, support groups, online Web sites, phone counseling or something else.

It doesn’t matter where you start, just as long as you begin. In order to change any habit, you need to create new ones to fill the void. It takes about three weeks to make new habits stick.

And there is help. Throughout the area, there are programs for those trying to quit. Studies show that whatever tactic tobacco users choose, they are much more successful with support. Read more

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10-year-old deals a winning game of Pokémon

June 15, 2010

Connor Owens cuts and shuffles a deck of Pokémon cards before starting a game against an opponent. By Greg Farrar

With nimble manipulation, Connor Owens’ hands quickly slice the cards next to one another as he shuffles. His ability mimics that of the best Las Vegas dealer. His calm, cool appearance is not dissimilar from the best Texas Hold’em players on the circuit as he keeps his steely eyes locked on his opponent.

But Connor is only 10, and this game is for the pride in proving he can school his father, Dave Owens.

“He can beat me so easily,” Dave said. “There was a time I could keep up, but now I can’t.”

In just a few years, Connor has gone from collecting the images on his Pokémon cards based on what character looks coolest to being one of the best Pokémon card players in the Pacific Northwest.

Since March, Connor has conquered the state of Oregon, taking third place at the state tournament March 13, and the Pacific Northwest Region, taking fourth at the April 17 tournament.

“I just thought, ‘Wow!’” Connor said.

“He pretty much shocked himself,” his mother Deneall Owens said. “He came up to me and said, ‘I can’t believe I won.’” Read more

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