Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank to provide backpacks, school supplies

July 17, 2012

The Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank is prepared to meet the school supply needs of up to 1,000 returning students this fall, about twice as many as last year.

Low-income families in need of backpacks and school supplies should sign up at the food bank, 179 First Ave. S.E. Students must be attending school in the Issaquah School District.

Refer families in need of backpacks to the food bank.

The backpacks and supplies are being donated by numerous individuals and businesses in the community, including Kiwanis Club of Issaquah, Issaquah Schools Foundation, SanMar, Issaquah Rotary Club, Office Depot, Issaquah Education Association and others.

Local PTAs collected $500 in gift card donations in June to support the bulk purchase of supplies.

Donations can be sent or dropped off at the food bank. Call 391-4123 for more information.

Issaquah School District administrators tackle homework, grading practices

July 17, 2012

School may be out, but homework is on a lot of people’s minds.

Superintendent Steve Rasmussen announced his plans, at the Issaquah School Board meeting June 20 to make homework and grading practices a hot topic of conversation during the 2012-13 school year.

“This is a topic that has piqued the interest of parents, and we agree,” he said. “I am confident that at the end of the year we will have a different appreciation for what homework is and how it connects to its purposes.”

Rasmussen laid out a plan for the homework conversation that is set to begin with the board’s retreat Aug. 21-22 and continue through next June. The first step in his plan is to review the district’s homework policy, look at Issaquah’s common homework practices, discuss the goal of homework and begin to make policy recommendations. Also on the list is gathering research on the topic and discussing the connection between homework and grading.

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Schools eye teacher evaluation system as state model

February 28, 2012

Hoping to take the lead in implementing a coming change in state law, local school officials have settled on a teacher evaluation system that could end up being a model for all of Washington.

The Issaquah School District will now spend time ramping up to implementation of the new system, according to Associate Superintendent Ron Thiele, as well information released by the district.

The new teacher and principal evaluation system should be in place in time for the next school year.

In fall 2013, every Washington public school will be implementing a state-mandated system to evaluate the performance of teachers and principals.

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Issaquah Schools Foundation’s education-based film series debuts

February 14, 2012

'The Race to Nowhere'

Three years ago, Vicki Abeles said her daughter, then 12, was pretty much like other children her age.

Her mom watched as her daughter juggled school, homework and various extracurricular activities. Then, her daughter began suffering panic attacks in the middle of the night. On one particular evening, Abeles and her husband found the girl doubled over in pain and rushed her to an emergency room.

“When she was diagnosed with a stress-induced illness, I was determined to do something,” Abeles said.

That something ultimately led to the documentary “The Race to Nowhere,” which will be shown at Issaquah High School on March 1.

Doors open at 6 p.m.; the film starts at 6:30 p.m. A discussion follows from 8-9 p.m. The Issaquah Schools Foundation is sponsoring the film along with the school district, the Issaquah Education Association and the Issaquah PTSA.

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Issaquah School District to pilot teacher evaluation process

December 13, 2011

In fall 2013, every Washington public school will implement a state-mandated system to evaluate the performance of teachers and principals.

According to the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the vast majority of districts in the state do not use a research-based instructional framework to guide teacher evaluations. The Issaquah School District is an exception and district officials decided they wanted to be a part of any coming changes.

“We decided we wanted to be on the forefront of that,” said Sara Niegowski, executive director of communications for the district.

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Issaquah schools could lose $2.2 million under governor’s proposed budget plan

December 6, 2011

“We will be looking at a trimmed-down operation,” said Jake Kuper, the Issaquah School District’s chief of finance and operations.

He said district officials largely had managed to keep financial cuts from directly impacting classrooms. But Kuper also said he doesn’t know if that will be possible if Olympia slashes local funding even further.

Kuper was talking about how funding cuts proposed by Gov. Chris Gregoire might affect the Issaquah schools. In making the cuts, Gregoire said she needed to close a looming $2 billion budget shortfall. To mitigate any spending reductions, Gregoire already has asked legislators to place a three-year, half-cent sales tax increase before voters in March. State lawmakers are in the midst of a special session to deal with budget questions.

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Union calls for action on school crowding

September 13, 2011

After passing their latest district spending plan, Issaquah school officials quickly stated that despite funding cuts and the overall economic downturn, local class sizes had remained the same.

“We were able to retain our class sizes from the prior year’s budget cycle,” said Jake Kuper, Issaquah School District chief of finance and operations.

That may be true, according to Phyllis Runyon, president of the Issaquah Education Association, the local teachers union.

But Runyon also said teachers still are struggling with oversized classes throughout the district. She added there are at least a few overloaded classes in every building and also talked about class size problems at specific schools and in specific grade levels.

For example, there are about 36 science and language arts-social studies classes overloaded at Beaver Middle Lake Middle School, Runyon said. She also talked about crowded conditions in secondary music classes.

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Issaquah School Board adopts $287.7 million budget

September 13, 2011

On the last day allowed by state law, the Issaquah School Board on Aug. 31 passed its 2011-2012 budget.

The overall plan includes expenditures of $287.7 million, including general fund spending of $161.5 million, according to district Chief of Finance and Operations Jake Kuper.

As with most governmental budgets, the general fund pays for the day-to-day operations of the district and includes items like class materials and salaries.

Outside of the general fund, the overall budget includes $1.5 million for the purchase of new buses, $68.2 million for capital improvements, $49.5 million for debt service and a $7 million allocation for spending by student groups.

During the recent board discussion, board member Chad Magendanz warned that Olympia legislators still could have some surprises in store for the district. Magendanz said he has seen hints that a special session of the Legislature could occur with adjustments to the state budget at the top of the agenda.

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Teachers challenge supermajority rule

August 9, 2011

As part of the Washington Education Association, unionized Issaquah school teachers are parties to the suit filed late last month challenging the requirement that a positive vote by a supermajority of state legislators is needed to approve future tax increases.

Imposed by voters in November as part of Initiative 1053, the rule resulted from one of the latest initiatives launched by well-known political activist Tim Eyman. The supermajority requirement applies to both houses of the state legislature.

“The state of Washington is not following through on their paramount duty to fully fund education,” said Phyllis Runyon, president of the Issaquah Education Association, the local teachers union. “The state has not fully funded education for years, but with the current economic situation, the funding situation has worsened.”

The state already has some of the largest class sizes in the nation along with some of the lowest per-pupil funding, Runyon added.

“Eyman’s initiative that calls for a two-thirds majority to pass legislation to raise taxes makes the situation far worse,” Runyon continued. “Without new revenue, the state will undoubtedly continue to cut education.”

Opponents specifically argue the rule violates the state constitution, unlawfully impairing the ability of lawmakers to fund public schools.

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Issaquah School District could lay off up to 51 teachers

May 3, 2011

If the worst were to happen, Issaquah School District’s budget would take quite a hit for the next school year.

Although the Legislature has yet to finalize its biennial budget, the district is required, through its contract with the Issaquah Education Association teachers’ union, to alert teachers about impending layoffs by the last school board meeting in April.

At the board meeting April 28, Jacob Kuper, finance and operations chief for the district, presented a worst-case-scenario, predicting the district would lose $2.7 million — a cut that would lead to the layoffs of 51 teachers, two maintenance-and-operations personnel, six custodians, 1.3 bus drivers, 1.15 educational assistants and 1.3 teachers on special assignment.

Of the 51 teachers, 15 plan to leave through normal attrition, meaning 36 teachers will receive layoff notices. There are 1,078 teachers is the district.

“One of the challenges that you face in an educational system is that 85 percent of our costs are salaries,” Associate Superintendent Ron Thiele said.

During the past two fiscal years, the district has received a $12 million reduction in state funding, money that was used to pay for classroom teachers and other school employees. The Legislature has reduced programs funding teachers, including suspension of Initiative 728, which pays for more teachers and professional development, and the elimination of the kindergarten-through-fourth-grade class-size reduction.

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