Steve Birdsall, former Maple Hills Elementary School teacher, dies

February 18, 2011

NEW — 5:30 p.m. Feb. 18, 2011

Former Maple Hills Elementary School teacher Steve Birdsall, known for his Hawaiian shirts and hiking, died Friday after an illness.

“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.

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. In addition, MSA patients have widespread damage to a part of the nervous system that controls important functions, including heart rate, blood pressure and sweating.

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YWCA hosts Passage Point open house

February 1, 2011

In preparation for the opening of the Passage Point housing project this summer, the YWCA is holding a community open house from 7-9 p.m. Feb. 9 at Maple Hills Elementary School, 15644 204th Ave. S.E., Renton.

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

The open house will feature YWCA staff knowledgeable about Passage Point, employment, mental health services, children’s services and Family Village Issaquah, a YWCA permanent housing facility opening this fall.

Issaquah teachers earn national certification

January 11, 2011

After hundreds of hours of self-reflection, videotaping their classes and studying for subject tests, 31 teachers in the Issaquah School District have earned their National Board Certification.

This brings the total number of district board certified teachers to 81. Read more

Maple Hills, Sunset elementary schools plan to install new heaters

December 14, 2010

Two Issaquah School District schools are slated to receive new heaters this winter break: Maple Hills and Sunset elementary schools.

Maple Hills’ heaters are as old as the school, which was built in unincorporated King County near Renton in 1969. All of the heaters are gas operated, and earlier this year, staff and students reported smelling gas in the 300 wing and music room, according to an e-mail from Maple Hills Principal Monique Beane.

The district’s capital projects and facilities services worked together to locate a heater with a crack in it, district Chief of Finance and Operations Jake Kuper said.

The leak “wasn’t a lot of gas, but it doesn’t take a lot of gas to have a smell,” Kuper said. Read more

Shooting temporarily shuts down Maple Hills Elementary School camp

October 8, 2010

NEW — 1:45 p.m. Oct. 8, 2010

Maple Hills Elementary School’s fifth-grade students stayed indoors Friday morning at the request of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department. The fifth-graders were staying at Camp Coleman in Longbranch, located south of Bremerton, Thursday and Friday for the annual fifth-grade outdoor science camp.

A shooting happened about five miles away from the camp the Thursday evening. The suspects fled in the opposite direction of the camp, but, “it’s good they were made aware of it and paid attention to it,” Pierce County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Ed Troyer said.

As a precaution, the sheriff’s office asked the camp director to move all activities indoors while authorities assessed the situation. Before noon, campers were allowed to resume their normal, outdoor activities.

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Girl Scouts host open houses

September 7, 2010

Local Girl Scout troops are hosting informational meetings or open houses. Learn more by calling 641-1126. Middle and high school troops are welcoming new girls as well. All events are from 7-8 p.m.

Information meetings (all take place in school multipurpose rooms)

-Newcastle Elementary — Sept. 23

-Clark and Issaquah Valley elementary — Sept. 27, Clark multipurpose room

-Apollo Elementary — Sept. 28

-Cougar Ridge and Sunset elementary — Sept. 29, Cougar Ridge multipurpose room

-Briarwood and Maple Hills elementary — Sept. 30, Briarwood multipurpose room Read more

Rural residents raise concerns about public safety cutbacks

August 3, 2010

County Executive Dow Constantine trekked east to Hobart — and into the sometimes-tenuous relationship between county government and rural King County residents — for a forum last week.

Constantine said unincorporated-area and rural residents stand to bear the brunt of looming cuts to county services, including King County Sheriff’s Office deputy layoffs and cutbacks to the county court system.

Contributed King County Executive Dow Constantine (left) addresses rural residents and the presidents of the six unincorporated area councils, including Four Creeks leader Tom Carpenter (far right), at a July 26 forum.

“There is significant disconnect between the cost of doing business and the dollars available,” he said during the July 26 meeting at Hobart Community Church. “We’re scrounging and scrapping to find ways to protect the quality of life for 2 million people in this county.”

Inside the overheated church, Constantine heard from leaders of the six unincorporated area councils — citizen groups elected by residents in regions as disparate as Vashon Island and rural Maple Valley. The unincorporated county is home to about 340,000 of the 1.9 million county residents.

The group includes Four Creeks, home to about 14,000 residents in a swath stretched between Issaquah and Renton. The area encompasses Maple Hills, May Valley, Mirrormont and other communities south of Issaquah city limits.

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Never-say-quit teacher leaves a final lesson

June 15, 2010

Degenerative disease cuts short beloved teacher’s career

At right, Steve Birdsall (left), Maple Hills Elementary fifth-grade teacher, keeps his students in line for a trip outside for their end-of-year class photo and video. By Greg Farrar

If you ask anyone at Maple Hills Elementary School who Steve Birdsall is, they’ll know just whom you’re talking about.

Quick to smile, always armed with a sense of humor, a tireless advocate for children’s education and the “best teacher ever,” students and faculty say. Read more

South Issaquah residents seek relief from odors

May 25, 2010

Air quality officials seek comments

Fed up with odors wafting from nearby Cedar Grove Composting, residents in the Four Lakes neighborhood south of Issaquah asked the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency to do something about the smell.

Now, as the air quality agency considers a permit for the composting facility, Four Lakes leaders want community members to offer input.

The agency wants to consolidate five permits for projects dating to 1993 into a single permit. The permit requires, for instance, Cedar Grove to filter air and handle waste inside enclosed spaces. In some cases, the company has already taken steps called for in the proposal.

The draft permit does not allow for production increases or changes to the way the facility operates.

Puget Sound Clean Air Agency officials will accept comments on the proposal until June 15. The agency will also hold a community meeting June 3 at Maple Hills Elementary School.

Cedar Grove turns food scraps and yard waste from more than 500,000 households in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties into compost at the Maple Valley facility.

The agency has received almost 8,000 complaints about the facility since 1988, with most of the complaints related to odor. Downwind residents reported burning eyes and throats as a result of the stench.

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School supporters donate $406,000

May 18, 2010

More than 770 people attended the Issaquah Schools Foundation’s Nourish Every Mind Luncheon May 13.

In some cases, luncheon goers donated up to $5,000 to set a new estimated fundraising record of $406,000, said ISF Executive Director Robin Callahan.

“This luncheon is an event the entire community can take pride in, because it is a culmination of the combined efforts of hundreds of volunteers,” Callahan said.

“Awesome! That is what I have to say about today, in one word, just awesome,” Superintendent Steve Rasmussen said after lunch. The foundation “really connects our community in a different way to our kids, to our teachers and to our school communities.”

Proceeds benefit Issaquah School District students and schools by providing funding for after school programs, classroom grants, teacher scholarships to pursue National Board Certification, textbooks, the high school and middle school robotics teams, and many other essentials.

Local comedian Pat Cashman donated his time for the seventh year to be master of ceremonies for the luncheon. He tossed out punch lines while honoring many of the district’s most inspirational teachers.

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