Youth advocates take top honors at Community Awards

June 5, 2012

Renee Zimmerman reacts to a standing ovation May 31 after receiving the Citizen of the Year award from Issaquah Chamber of Commerce board chairwoman Dianna Reely, during the 33rd annual Issaquah Community Awards at the Hilton Garden Inn. By Greg Farrar

As Issaquah celebrated its very best at the 33rd annual Chamber of Commerce Community Awards, two residents — celebrated for their lasting contributions to the community — were inducted into Issaquah’s Hall of Fame on May 31.

Barbara de Michele and Master Sgt. Richard “Top” DeMarco received top honors at the May 31 ceremony, which included recognition for Issaquah’s finest in 18 categories, including awards for standout volunteers, businesses leaders, organizations and youth.

Issaquah Mayor Ava Frisinger said the Hall of Fame awards were based on several criteria, including inspiration, leadership, civic mindedness, fundraising efforts for public good and length of service to the community.

None more so affected by the awardees are Issaquah’s youth.

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Issaquah Highlands road link opens to vehicle traffic

May 15, 2012

By Dona Mokin

Issaquah Highlands residents, long limited to a single east-west route uphill through the hillside neighborhood, celebrated the opening of another road link May 10.

The city opened a pair of connected roads — Northeast College Drive and Northeast Falls Drive — to connect motorists to the area from Grand Ridge Elementary School to a proposed retail complex downhill from the campus.

The roads supplement the existing east-west corridor, Northeast Park Drive. The project is also meant to address congestion caused by morning and afternoon drop-offs and pick-ups at Grand Ridge Elementary.

The link starts at Central Park, runs behind the school and terminates at 10th Avenue Northeast. The link — completed by developers — is meant to offer additional access to the school, residences and a planned Bellevue College campus. (Hence the name Northeast College Drive.)

Developers shouldered most of the roughly $1.75 million project cost.

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Schools, Issaquah School District win Earth Heroes at School Awards

May 8, 2012

Renee De Tolla, Ashley Hirst and Leslie Lederman (from left), of Grand Ridge Elementary School, pose with King County Executive Dow Constantine at April 26’s Earth Heroes award ceremony. By Ned Ahrens/King County Department of Transportation

The Issaquah School District’s green side was on display recently when it received several environmental honors from King County Executive Dow Constantine.

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Growth is focus as City Council, Issaquah School Board meet

May 1, 2012

City and Issaquah School District leaders pledged coordination and cooperation as the city outlines a bold plan to add thousands of residences in the decades ahead.

Chad Magendanz

Discussion about the Central Issaquah Plan — a proposal to transform more than 900 acres near Interstate 90 and state Route 900 — and possible changes to the school district, such as redrawing boundaries for schools to accommodate population shifts, dominated the annual joint meeting April 24.

City Council and Issaquah School Board members, plus Mayor Ava Frisinger and Superintendent Steve Rasmussen and other officials, gathered at Mandarin Garden a week after school district voters approved a $219 million bond to fuel a school construction boom. The planned projects include major changes for schools in downtown Issaquah.

The groups, seated beneath red lanterns and arranged around lazy Susans, sipped tea and nibbled on fried rice and roast pork as discussion unfolded about long-term development plans. (The city hosted the meal and spent $311.24 on food and beverages.)

“Both organizations have gone from fast-growing organizations to more stable, mature organizations with different sets of issues,” Council President Tola Marts said. “So, now the challenge is how do we manage the remaining growth that we have?”

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Grand Ridge Elementary’s Lightning Readers win county library contest

April 17, 2012

The Grand Ridge Elementary School Lightning Readers celebrate winning the King County Library System’s Global Reading Challenge on March 23. By Tom Corriga

They started in October, eight students setting out to read 10 books.

They spent plenty of their own time between the covers of those books, but toward the end of the challenge they gave up their recess and lunch times to stay in the classroom in order to read and answer questions about what they’d read.

“And all that paid off,” declared Grand Ridge Elementary School student Gargi Panatula.

The Issaquah School District has entered the King County Library System’s Global Reading Challenge for 11 years. Teams competitively answer questions about assigned books. Issaquah squads have made the finals previously. But the district has never won the championship. That changed March 23 when Grand Ridge’s Lightning Readers went the distance and beat out three other finalist teams to win the Grand Challenge.

“And I think we got smarter,” team member Emma Huryn said.

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Native American storyteller passes on traditional tales to next generation

February 28, 2012

Native American storyteller Roger Fernandes helps students at Grand Ridge Elementary School play the bone guessing game.Photos By Tom Corrigan

Roger Fernandes believes his visits to schools such as Grand Ridge Elementary School are essentially public relations appearances for Native Americans.

An artist and Native American storyteller, Fernandes put in an appearance at Grand Ridge on Feb. 16. He and students from the school put on a performance — songs, dances and native games — for parents and school staff members that evening.

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Mardi Gras theme comes to Grand Ridge Elementary School auction

January 24, 2012

Artwork like this piece, ‘Hands,’ is up for auction to raise money for the Grand Ridge Elementary School PTA. Contributed

A past president of the Grand Ridge Elementary School PTA, Lida Buckner makes no secret of the fact she wants to start a tradition.

Buckner is one of the driving forces behind the school’s first auction event, dubbed Mardi Gras 2012. The fundraiser is split into two parts, an online auction and a live auction event. The online portion of the fundraiser began Jan. 22 and runs through Jan. 29. The live auction is set for Feb. 11 at the Hilton Garden Inn Issaquah.

Buckner said proceeds will benefit science, art and music programs, as well as programs run by the school PTSA.

During the online event, parents and others can bid on 37 original student art projects, one from each classroom in the Issaquah Highlands school. As for the live event, organizers wanted to make it a little different. Buckner said their choice of the Hilton Garden Inn as a venue is another reason the live auction will run a bit unlike similar events parents and others may have seen put together by other schools.

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Grant awards support local projects

November 29, 2011

The Issaquah Community Network recently awarded eight grants totaling $7,000 and, according to the network, those grants are aimed at supporting local school activities and efforts to promote healthy youth and strong families.

Awards were made at the regular meeting of the Issaquah Community Network board Nov. 7.

“We were pleased to receive grant applications from a mix of previous grantees and new applicants,” said Judy Brewer, board chairwoman.

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Bugs and plants create excitement about fourth-grade science

November 1, 2011

Rachel Lee (left), Caleb McDonald, Hailey Warren and Brian Chan (hidden, right), four of Grand Ridge Elementary School teacher Becky Rappin’s fourth-grade students, make observations on their terrarium after placing isopods — common pill bugs —in the soil. By Greg Farrar

When Becky Rappin asks who might want to help transport crickets, there is no shortage of volunteers. Hands go up all around Rappin’s fourth-grade classroom at Grand Ridge Elementary School.

The crickets are just one element in the students’ study of ecosystems, that study being part of the new science curriculum implemented this year at elementary schools throughout the Issaquah School District.

“There’s a lot of excitement about this program,” Rappin said. “There is just so much hands on, it gets kids thinking and observing.”

Parent volunteer Lisa Porter said students put together from scratch the terrariums and aquariums lined up at the back of Rappin’s classroom. The first step was washing out the plastic bottles that are the basic components.

With the cone-shaped top half of the bottles removed, the bottoms of bottles were filled with dirt, and students planted alfalfa, rye and mustard plants. There are also leaves scattered in the makeshift terrariums.

On this day, for the first time, students will be adding live insects — isopods or potato bugs and the already mentioned crickets — to the terrariums. Also made out of the bottom half of bottles, small aquariums already have residents including plants, pond snails and mosquito fish or guppies.

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Teachers eager to implement adopted science curriculum

November 1, 2011

Steve Rasmussen

The mad scientists have returned to their classrooms and some are completing observations of crickets, pill bugs and other creatures and plant life.

“Kids don’t just learn science, they do science,” said Joanne Griesemer, a curriculum specialist for the Issaquah School District.

Griesemer was referring to the district’s new science curriculum and said she has been happily busy over the past few months helping implement that curriculum.

During the past spring and summer, the Issaquah Schools Foundation, in partnership with the local PTSA, put on various fundraisers and took in roughly $438,000 toward replacing the district’s kindergarten through fifth-grade science materials. The fundraisers included having students dressed as mad scientists soliciting donations at various locations.

District officials pledged to match the foundation’s efforts with $700,000. The end result was the purchase of $1.1 million in new science materials. That includes everything from textbooks and workbooks to models, measuring instruments and so on. Every elementary school in the district has gotten at least some of those items.

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