Maple Hills Elementary principal takes middle school post

June 6, 2011

NEW — 5:45 p.m. June 6, 2011

Maple Hills Elementary School Principal Monique Beane has nurtured her school’s community since 2007, but this fall she has decided to move up to the middle school level.

In an email to parents Monday, Beane announced her move to Pacific Cascade Middle School, where she will work as assistant principal.

The current assistant principal, Condee Wood, has accepted a position with Washington Middle School in the Olympia School District.

When Issaquah School District Superintendent Steve Rasmussen learned of Wood’s move, he asked Beane if she would consider taking the Pacific Cascade position, she wrote in the email. Just as she taught her students at Maple Hills, Beane decided to take on a new challenge, she wrote.

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Issaquah School District considers $228 million bond

May 24, 2011

Though far from complete, the 2012 Issaquah School District bond has something for all of the district’s 24 schools, making the work-in-process price $228.6 million.

The proposal also includes remodeled or expanded schools for Apollo, Clark, Issaquah Valley and Sunny Hills elementary schools, Issaquah Middle School, and Liberty and Tiger Mountain Community high schools.

The bond proposal suggests the district tear down Tiger Mountain and Clark, and move the students to a remodeled building where Issaquah Middle School is now. The two schools would be close, but not connected, Associate Superintendent Ron Thiele said, with the Tiger move costing about $3.9 million and the Clark move costing about $19.5 million.

In the meantime, the district would build a new, two-story Issaquah Middle School where Clark and Tiger are now; that would cost about $62.5 million.

“This is the biggest project on the bond,” Thiele said.

The proposed bond also shows several trends — switches from carpet to rubber flooring, three new artificial-turf fields and two rain shields for outdoor play areas.

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Who’s News

May 17, 2011

Betsy Sanford named Star teacher of the week

Star 101.5 and KOMO TV visited Maple Hills Elementary School May 12 to award Betsy Sanford with the Teacher of the Week award.

Curt Kruse, STAR afternoon DJ, and the Star 101.5 crew brought gift bags and treats for each student, including Teacher of the Week T-shirts. Sanford was awarded a plaque and check for $100, as well as a 1-in-24 chance of winning a 2011 VW Jetta.

Comcast awards scholarships

The Comcast Foundation recently named Paige A. Nulliner, of Issaquah, as one of 91 recipients in Western Washington and Spokane in its annual Leaders and Achievers Scholarship Program in 2011.

The program provides one-time, $1,000 scholarships to students who strive to achieve their potential, who are catalysts for positive change in their communities, who are involved in their schools and who serve as models for their fellow students.

Nulliner attends Skyline High School and plans to attend the University of San Diego.

Issaquah resident passes state bar exam

Sean Nyberg, of Issaquah, passed the Washington State Bar Exam.

A graduate of Issaquah High School, Nyberg earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from the University of Washington and his juris doctor degree from Gonzaga University. He works at the law firm O’Brien, Barton, Joe & Hopkins PLLP.

Local historian honored

Robert E. Ficken, of Issaquah, has been awarded the Robert Gray Medal by the Washington State Historical Society.

Throughout his distinguished writing career and his work as an independent historian, Ficken has produced some highly regarded works about Washington’s history, and he has shared his knowledge through conferences and workshops about the state’s heritage.

The highest award bestowed by the Washington State Historical Society, the Robert Gray Medal recognizes distinguished and long-term contributions to Pacific Northwest history through demonstrated excellence in one or more of the following areas: teaching, writing, research, historic preservation and service to local historical societies.

The award will be presented to Ficken at the noon luncheon of the annual meeting of the Historical Society on June 18 at the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma.

Arjun Kumar to compete in National Geographic Bee

Arjun Kumar, a seventh-grader at Beaver Lake Middle School, will represent Washington at the 23rd annual National Geographic Bee in Washington, D.C., May 24-25.

Arjun is one of only 54 students remaining in the nationwide competition, culled down from more than 5 million participants. The top 10 finalists will compete in the May 25 final round, moderated by “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek and taped for later airing on the National Geographic Channel.

Local seniors awarded Overlake scholarships

Four local high school girls were awarded Overlake Alumnae Panhellenic Scholarships for 2011.

Each winner will receive a certificate of merit and a monetary award to be applied toward her educational goal. The winners are:

  • Eastside Catholic High School — Mackenzie Brown
  • Issaquah High School — Mackenzie Bauer
  • Liberty High School — Megan Bales
  • Skyline High School — Paige Haas

Issaquah resident joins ‘The Dori Monson Show’

Jessica Gottesman, of Issaquah, has joined “The Dori Monson Show” as a news anchor and regular contributor.

Gottesman previously anchored at CBS Radio’s all-news 1010 WINS in New York City. She also spent a decade in financial news covering Wall Street as a television and radio anchor for Bloomberg.

Gottesman joined 97.3 KIRO FM in 2010 as an afternoon anchor, and since moving to Issaquah she has covered everything from the capture of the Barefoot Bandit to the Cal Brown execution (Washington’s first since 2001) and the passing of the voice of the Mariners, Dave Niehaus.

Gottesman has won numerous Murrow, Associated Press and New York State Broadcaster awards, and a Gracie Allen Award for Best Major Market anchor from American Women in Radio and Television. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell and her law degree from Fordham.

Maple Hills Elementary students create giant glass curtains

May 3, 2011

Maple Hills Elementary School student Rianna Belaire (left) reaches for a glass chip while Mikayla Jaeger creates a multicolored mosaic on her glass tile for a schoolwide art project. By Laura Geggel

The kindergartners got the color red. First-graders decorated with blue. Second-graders used orange.

For a schoolwide art project, Maple Hills Elementary School students are creating giant, glass color-coded curtains that will greet visitors passing by the office.

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Maple Hills Elementary glass art project / May 2011

May 3, 2011

Liberty High School to host garage sale April 23

April 19, 2011

Liberty High School’s first garage sale is from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 23 in its main gym.

The garage sale is in honor of Maple Hills Elementary School teacher Steve Birdsall who died of multiple system atrophy in February. All proceeds will benefit Shy-Drager, an organization that offers support to families affected by the disease.

Donate gently used clothing, home furnishings, luggage, electronics, computer equipment, child supplies and sports equipment for the sale. Students from the school’s Associated Student Body will collect donations at the school from 2:30-3:30 p.m. through April 20 in the upper gym.

School officials ask that parents drop off donations with a student present.

Top volunteers honored at Golden Acorn Awards

April 5, 2011

For every strong school, there are strong volunteers who organize cultural fairs, chaperone field trips, coordinate family fun nights, photocopy assignments and hold bank days for student deposits.

The Issaquah PTSA Council awarded 73 volunteers from 23 schools with Golden Acorn Awards at the 2011 Recognizing Our All-Stars reception March 29.

Boy Scout Troop Pack 636 started the function with a flag salute, and Issaquah PTSA Council President Janine Kotan welcomed the crowd.

The ceremony had a sports theme, with presenters dressed in their favorite sports garb and giving speeches about how volunteers had wowed their fans and hit home runs for their schools.

Jennifer Good, a parent volunteer at Challenger Elementary School, said she began volunteering to meet people and promote education. She organized an ice cream social at the beginning of the year, while Ruth Steck, another parent volunteer, regularly snaps photos of students for the Challenger yearbook.

Both women said they appreciated the Golden Acorn Awards, though, “You don’t do it to be recognized,” Good said.

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Students get in battle of words at Global Reading Challenge

March 15, 2011

They had read the books over and over. They had quizzed each other. They had triumphed at their schools’ Global Reading Challenge, landing them a spot at the Issaquah School District’s competition at the Issaquah Library.

A group of elementary school students convenes, deciding what to write for their response to a question at the King County Library System Global Reading Challenge. By Laura Geggel

In a room overflowing with about 60 parents, teachers and friends, 42 fourth- and fifth-grade students sat raptly listening as librarians quizzed them about books.

Parent Toni Nankova said her daughter Daniela Nankova absorbed the books like a sponge does water.

“After she was done reading, she would say, “Mom, this book is really good. You have to read it,” Toni Nankova said. “And then she would quiz me on it. If I got it wrong, she’d say, ‘You have to go back and read it.’”

Students began preparing for the challenge in October. Each group had seven people and 10 books to read, with some students reading a few books and others reading the whole stack.

First, they competed against other groups at their school. The winning teams from Creekside, Discovery, Grand Ridge, Issaquah Valley, Maple Hills and Sunset elementary schools trooped to the Issaquah Library on March 2 to duke it out with their friends and rivals.

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Schools prepare for children of Passage Point residents

February 22, 2011

With the YWCA’s Passage Point scheduled to open in June, its neighbors in the southern part of the Issaquah School District are working to learn as much as they can about the facility before its inaugural day.

About 10 people came to the YWCA Passage Point Community Open House Feb. 9 at Maple Hills Elementary School, some carrying lists of questions they could ask YWCA representatives, King County project managers and school district administrators.

YWCA Case Manager Miesha Phillips (left) answers questions from Deena Rataezyk, Debra Hawkins and Joanna Hodgson at the Passage Point community open house. By Laura Geggel

Passage Point allows the YWCA to provide housing for men and women recently released from incarceration who wish to reunite with their children. The residents of Passage Point will have access to housing, employment and counseling services.

“It’s going to be geared toward a certain population that wants to change,” YWCA Case Manager Miesha Phillips said.

She and other administrators answered questions about Passage Point’s rules and services.

Deena Rataezyk learned that any Passage Point residents who register to volunteer with the district will have to go through a standard Washington State Patrol background check.

Nick LaCaze asked if teachers were ready to teach children living at Passage Point, given that some of them might need extra support at school, and Rataezyk asked if the schools would have additional mental health resources.

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Steve Birdsall, beloved Maple Hills Elementary School teacher, dies

February 22, 2011

Maple Hills Elementary School teacher Steve Birdsall, known for his Hawaiian shirts and hiking, died Feb. 18 after an illness. He was 52.

“In his 23 years in the Issaquah School District, Mr. Birdsall touched the lives of countless students, parents and staff members,” Maple Hills Principal Monique Beane wrote in an e-mail to parents the day he died.

Steve Birdsall, Maple Hills Elementary fifth-grade teacher, in June 2010 prepared for medical leave after a 23-year career in the Issaquah School District — 22 of those years spent at Maple Hills. By Greg Farrar

Birdsall took a medical leave in 2010 after the disease he and his doctors were fighting — multiple system atrophy — took its toll on his body.

Multiple system atrophy is a rare condition with symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease, according to the National Institutes of Health. MSA patients have widespread damage to a part of the nervous system that controls important functions, including heart rate, blood pressure and sweating.

In an interview with The Issaquah Press in June, Birdsall said he participated in clinical studies for the disease in hopes that a better treatment would be available to future MSA patients.

Beane recalled how Birdsall introduced himself and continued working despite his illness when she started working at Maple Hills in 2007.

“He was good to me, as a first year principal,” she said. “He was honest. He would send me e-mails if I made a good decision and send me e-mails if he thought I needed to think about something. He helped me grow as a professional.”

Birdsall was married to Polly Vaughn and had two teenage children, Madison and Kellen Birdsall.

Laura Geggel: 392-6434, ext. 241, or Comment at

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