Issaquah Schools Foundation broadens scope to fund more, smaller projects

April 24, 2012

By Tom Corrigan

Last year, in connection with the Issaquah PTSA Council, the Issaquah Schools Foundation raised about $438,000 to help with the purchase and implementation of a new science curriculum at elementary schools in the Issaquah School District.

The curriculum included textbooks and other related materials aimed at students in kindergarten through grade five.

After a retreat of foundation administrators and a meeting with the Issaquah School Board, the foundation does not have any single, large-scale goal for this year, Executive Director Robin Callahan said.

Instead of concentrating on fundraising for one major effort, the foundation hopes to spread itself into various areas. One focus area will be the district’s stated goal of ensuring all third-graders are reading at grade level.

“This idea of reading by third grade has informed us in a couple of ways,” Callahan said. “We know that is one area we can target our resources.”

On the Web

Learn more about the  Issaquah Schools Foundation and its upcoming fundraisers at www.issaquahschoolsfoundation.org.

The foundation never has really looked at early education in the past, she added. Pre-kindergarten intervention will now be one possible focus of the foundation.

The foundation also will continue its support of leveled libraries in the schools. The foundation has been providing books for the schools, books that aren’t necessarily at grade level. The idea is to encourage reading among students who might not be able to read at grade level.

Still, overall, Callahan again said there will not be one big push behind a singular goal, such as the science curriculum. The foundation has not yet adopted its next budget, so Callahan said no plans are finalized at this point. She did mention several efforts the foundation is likely to focus on, in addition to early literacy.

Those areas include working with local dentists to provide dental care for underserved students. The foundation may begin helping supply musical instruments to secondary school students. Finally, the foundation will expand its efforts to get refurbished iPads into the hands of special-needs students. The foundation ran a pilot program with the iPads this year.

During a meeting with the school board, Callahan and other foundation leaders talked briefly with school leaders about measurable effects of the new science curriculum. The schools have performance indicators in place that can determine the impact of the new curriculum, board President Chad Magendanz noted.

They are the same indicators he said the district uses to track the overall “health” of the district, presumably the district scores the board put in place last year. Board members seemed confident they eventually will be able to tell what effect the new curriculum had on science learning in the district. The conversation led directly into a discussion of the district’s current academic goals, especially third-grade literacy.

Regarding the early literacy goal, Superintendent Steve Rasmussen said district literacy had sort of flat-lined. The literacy level is fairly high, he said, but isn’t improving while other academic areas have seen student improvement, he said.

The foundation will continue its support of programs it has helped fund in the past, such as robotics teams at every middle and high school in the district, Callahan said. The group might branch out into other related areas of science and technology.

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