Issaquah lends talent to Pacific Northwest Ballet’s ‘Nutcracker’

November 27, 2012

Megan McKelvey (right), an eighth-grader at Beaver Lake Middle School, tries on her calvary costume during rehearsal at the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Phelps Center. By Adrienne Woods

Since 1983, Christmastime in the Northwest has meant a trip to the ballet to see the fantasy dream world come alive in “Nutcracker.” But for a lucky few, the thrill extends to dancing on stage to Tchaikovsky’s classic score.

Not just reserved for professionals, each year the Pacific Northwest Ballet opens 86 roles to its local students.

And this December’s cast includes eight area dancers. From youngest to oldest, Chelsea Inagawa will dance the role of Little Girl; Serena Martin has been cast as part of the infantry; Chloe Chow and Anna Park are tall servants; Danielle Bae, Anna Paula Lanzara and Megan McKelvey are all members of the cavalry; and Alyssa Collister will dance as a fighting mice woman.

“Nutcracker” auditions were held in early October.

“It was nerve-wracking, but it was interesting to see other people who are auditioning,” said McKelvey, explaining that there were dancers from all levels at the auditions. “I learned from it because they were older and more experienced … I saw their technique and I saw how, even though it gets harder, it looks a whole lot cleaner and sharp.”

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Issaquah holiday activities offer fa-la-la fun

November 27, 2012

Bartell Drugs and Salvation Army’s Toy ‘n’ Joy drive through Dec. 14, accepts new, unwrapped gifts for children up to age 14, or shoppers can chose a gift request tag item in the store and put it in the donation barrel in the store. The Issaquah Bartell is at 5700 E. Lake Sammamish Parkway S.E. Learn more at

Toys for Troops seeks donations for Christmas presents for children of service members. Drop off donations through Dec. 15 at the Issaquah Police Station, 130 E. Sunset Way, or make financial donations at

Small Works Holiday Exhibition, through Dec. 29, artEAST Art Center, 95 Front St. N., 392-3191,

Downtown Issaquah holiday lights work party, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 1, meet at Hailstone Feed Store, 232 Front St., a lunch break at noon features donated pizza from Flying Pie Pizza, call 391-1112 to volunteer

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Spurred by Skyline threat, absences jump 70 percent at other schools

September 25, 2012

Student attendance in the Issaquah School District tumbled Sept. 20, and absences spiked by 70 percent, as police investigated a shooting threat against Skyline High School.

District administrators decided late Sept. 19 to close Skyline the next day in response to the online threat and keep other campuses open. Staffers and students at other schools felt the ripples early.

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Spurred by Skyline threat, absences jump 70 percent at Issaquah schools

September 20, 2012

NEW — 6:15 p.m. Sept. 20, 2012

Student attendance in the Issaquah School District tumbled Thursday, and absences spiked by 70 percent, as police investigated a shooting threat against Skyline High School.

District administrators decided late Wednesday to close Skyline on Thursday and keep other campuses open. Staffers and students at other schools felt the ripples early.

Districtwide, absences increased at 18 of 25 schools Thursday, although not every instance is attributable to the Skyline threat.

Officials counted 1,158 students absent Thursday, up from 680 a week earlier, Sept. 13, according to a comparison of attendance data. The district serves about 17,000 students from Preston to Newcastle, and from Sammamish to Renton.

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Issaquah School District schools welcome new principals

July 10, 2012

The Issaquah School District is welcoming several new faces this month.

Superintendent Steve Rasmussen recently announced the arrival of three new principals. Starting July 1, Michael Schiehser took over at Tiger Mountain Community High School, Tod Wood started at Clark Elementary School and Stacy Cho took the helm at Beaver Lake Middle School.

Schiehser began his career teaching high school science in Southern California and is a national board certified teacher. He joined the Mercer Island School District in 2005 as an associate principal at Mercer Island High School.

He has also served as the director of instruction and assessment and secondary learning support, before moving to his current position as director of teaching and learning, which includes the responsibility of serving as the primary instructional leader at Mercer Island High School.

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Issaquah School District receives state energy grants

June 12, 2012

The Issaquah School District has been awarded energy grants totaling $120,084, according to the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

“In addition to helping create jobs, it will help the district move forward with work that will reduce energy consumption and improve the learning and working environments,” Capital Projects Director Steve Crawford said in a statement. “The annual savings from this grant combined with our 2011 grant work will save the district a little over $200,000 a year in operational costs … especially significant as it is a reduction in general fund operational costs, which compete with classroom funding.”

The grants are intended to produce long-term energy and operational savings for the district, improve the indoor environmental qualities of schools and help stimulate construction-industry jobs. The energy projects use utility incentives, energy savings, local money and grant funds to make improvements that may otherwise not be affordable. The OSPI awarded $5.9 million in energy grants to 14 school districts throughout the state.

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Beaver Lake student makes pre-teen pageant

June 12, 2012

Seaena O’Brien

Seaena O’Brien, of Issaquah, was recently selected to participate in the 2012 Miss Pre-Teen Seattle pageant June 17.

O’Brien is competing in the Pre-Teen category, one of four divisions in which girls ages 7-19 are participating. Contestants will be judged in modeling routines, including casual and formal wear, and the interview, displaying her personality and interviewing skills.

In addition to competing for her share of thousands of dollars in prizes and specialty gifts, if O’Brien were to win the title of Miss Pre-Teen Seattle, she would represent the city and surrounding communities at the national competition in Orlando, Fla. More than $30,000 in prizes and awards will be presented at nationals.

This will be O’Brien’s first time entering a pageant. The 12-year-old sixth-grader at Beaver Lake Middle School enjoys playing guitar and volleyball, and loves to read.

Each contestant receives all of the necessary training, rehearsals and financial support through local business sponsorships. If you’re interested in sponsoring O’Brien, call the Miss Pre-Teen Seattle pageant coordinator at 800-279-0976 toll free.

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Beaver Lake Middle School principal takes helm at Liberty High School

June 5, 2012

Josh Almy doesn’t have to go far to find the inspiration of leadership in the classroom.

Josh Almy

With his wife, sister and mother all serving as teachers during their lifetimes, the newly appointed principal of Liberty High School said education is all around him.

The 39-year-old father of three said he’s looking forward to hitting the ground running, with plans to meet and learn from Liberty parents, students, teachers and staff members in the coming weeks.

“I’m ready to jump in with two feet and get to know people and figure out how I can support people,” he said. “A principal needs to be focused on staff, learn how to be supporting kids and be a good listener.”

Almy is no stranger to the Issaquah School District, having served as the principal at Beaver Lake Middle School for the past eight years.

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Preliminary timeline is in place for school, fields construction

May 15, 2012

Issaquah School District officials are wasting no time when it comes to putting their recently approved $219 million bond into action.

The school board reviewed a preliminary schedule of projects and timeline for school construction and other district upgrades at its May 9 meeting. Some projects could begin as soon as July and other smaller projects extend through the end of 2019.

“Somebody has to be first and somebody has to be last,” said Jacob Kuper, chief operations officer for the district.

Phase 2 construction of Liberty High School and Phase 2 at Maywood Middle School are first in line with finishes projected by the end of 2013. At the caboose of the tentative timeline of the larger projects is the reconstruction of Sunny Hills Elementary School, which wouldn’t finish until December 2018.

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Issaquah PTSA honors outstanding volunteers at Golden Acorn Awards

April 3, 2012

The primary decorations were orange construction cones and yellow caution tape. Winners were described in terms keeping with that theme, such as construction tools or architects. One winner from the Issaquah School District PTSA Council was described as “the construction glue” that holds the council together.

Gathered in the commons of Pacific Cascade Middle School, the Issaquah PTSA Council held its annual Golden Acorn Awards ceremony March 27.

Not counting the several winners from the districtwide PTSA council, the night honored approximately 75 winners from 23 PTSA units, said Becky Lawrence, vice-president of elementary schools for the PTSA council. A committee of PTSA leaders from each school picked the winners from their individual schools, Lawrence added. As you might expect, criteria included what PTSA members have done for their schools, but also the district and their involvement in the community as a whole.

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