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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Funded by voters in 2006, construction continues around Issaquah School District

April 3, 2012

Even as voters begin to mull a $219 capital bond package that will be on a special April ballot, work funded by a 2006 voter-approved bond continues around the Issaquah School District.

Some of the bigger ongoing projects include work at Maywood Middle, Briarwood Elementary and Liberty High schools.

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Bond package includes artificial turf for middle schools

March 27, 2012

There are a couple of themes that come up over and over as backers and school officials talk about the prospect of placing artificial turf on the fields of each of the five Issaquah School District middle schools.

The upcoming bond package also would provide the middle schools with rubberized outdoor running tracks if voters decide to approve the $219 million capital improvement plan.

District officials hope to install the turf and tracks at a cost of $1.5 million per school, not counting fields that could go in at a transplanted Issaquah Middle School.

The IMS fields would be added after the school is rebuilt; associated costs are not specifically spelled out in the district’s bond package.

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Students gear up for da Vinci, a robot surgeon

October 18, 2011

Swedish/Issaquah hosts local schools for robotics demonstration

Michael Petkov, Swedish Medical Center robotics charge nurse, sets the arms on a da Vinci Surgical System robot to perform procedures on a dish of plastic pieces and a grape. By Greg Farrar

The surgeon of the future is clad in gray plastic and operates using a quartet of spindly arms.

The brain in the surgeon of the future — a robot named for a legendary inventor — is a flesh-and-blood physician at the controls. The surgeon guides the robot amid procedures and, like a scene lifted from a sci-fi flick, guide tool-tipped arms to cut infinitesimal incisions and perform tasks inside the confines of a human body.

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District students score above state average on Washington math tests

September 27, 2011

As Issaquah School District students headed back to class Aug. 30, state education officials were releasing the first results of a newly required math test.

The state also put out final numbers on which schools were able, or not able, to meet annual improvement goals set out by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Last spring, Washington students in algebra and geometry classes took a state test immediately at the end of their course work. The system is known as “end of course,” or “EOC” testing. It replaced the standardized math test students formerly took near the end of the school year.

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Past bond ushers in school renovation projects

August 23, 2011

In February 2006, Issaquah School District voters approved a $241.8 million bond issue to fund new construction and renovations around the district.

Maywood Middle School is being expanded and modernized. sky-pix aerial photography

The schools are following the plan laid out to voters with one exception, according to information on the district website.

In early 2007, the district acted to redirect construction dollars originally earmarked to fund construction of a new middle school, the district’s fifth. Because of changed enrollment and other factors, officials decided, rather than build a new school, they would convert the Pacific Cascade Freshman Campus into a full-blown middle school beginning in fall 2010. As a result, the Issaquah and Skyline high school campuses were revamped to include space for new freshmen.

Funded by that 2006 bond issue, here are some of the projects still under way in the district.

“The biggies are all down on the south end this year,” said Sara Niegowski, district executive director of communications.

• Planners slated Maywood Middle School in Renton for a modernization and expansion project. According to the latest construction update from the district this month, Maywood’s old administration/commons area and counseling offices are gone, with construction of replacement facilities under way. Demolition of the parking lots and sidewalks are nearing completion with rebuilding scheduled to have already started. Grading of new parking areas has begun.

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Nordstrom social-media maven shares a passion for fashion

July 26, 2011

The palatial Nordstrom flagship store almost doubles as a closet for Sanda Belaire, a designer saleswoman at the downtown Seattle landmark.

Sanda Belaire

In a 21st-century spin on renowned Nordstrom customer service, Belaire uses Facebook, Twitter and other tools to invite others to explore the fashion fantasyland, exchange ideas about the latest looks and select items for customers. The longtime Issaquah-area resident seamlessly melds chic and geek as a designer saleswoman and social-media maven for the Elle-and-Vogue set.

“I’m a firm believer in keeping up with technology,” she said. “You have to keep up with the world or it leaves you behind.”

Belaire shares snippets — a fire-engine-red Gucci dress, a Dolce & Gabbana lace sheath, a Jason Wu coat trimmed in ostrich feathers and velvet Miu Miu pumps attached to oversized bows, not unlike gifts beneath a Christmas tree — in iPhone photos posted to Twitter and Tumblr, popular social media sites.

“Twitter is another door into the store,” she said.

In 2008, Belaire joined the microblogging site and, a year later, created a popular account dedicated solely to style. The smartphone snapshots and 140-character musings reach almost 3,000 followers nowadays.

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For Devin Bennett, the final piece of a family legacy

July 19, 2011

In the quiet farmland of Pasco, where the scorching summer sun routinely drives temperatures into the triple digits, Devin Bennett wakes up before 5 a.m. to get to work.

Devin Bennett, Liberty High School senior, jumps out at the start of the 400-meter race May 20 during the 3A Sea-King District Championships, qualifying for state with a time of 51.01 seconds. By Greg Farrar

From mid-June to mid-July, he spends between 10 and 12 hours per day on his family’s cherry orchard, loading bins of fruit onto a tractor.

Although Bennett — a 2011 Liberty High School graduate — has come to the farm each summer for the past six years, this is the first year he has taken to grueling manual labor.

The hard work fits perfectly in line with his tremendous work ethic.

It’s a work ethic that led him to success as an athlete. It’s a work ethic that led him to success as a student. And it’s a work ethic he will build upon when he joins the track-and-field team at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, Calif., as a walk-on next year.

Driven by his will to put in the effort, Bennett hopes to become a college decathlete, competing in 10 different events.

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Issaquah School District to request bond in February

June 28, 2011

The Issaquah School Board has agreed to put a bond before voters Feb. 14.

Board members are still reviewing the contents and cost of the bond, but agreed to decide on both by late September, giving community supporters four months to campaign.

A bond is a property tax that pays for school construction and repairs. Money from bonds cannot be used for teacher salaries or for classroom supplies.

The last bond put before voters — a $241.87 million bond in February 2006 — passed with about 68 percent of the vote. All bonds need at least 60 percent approval to pass.

Some of the larger projects on the 2006 bond included the rebuilding of Issaquah High and Briarwood Elementary schools; the expansion of Skyline High School; the addition of Creekside Elementary School; and remodels at Maywood Middle and Liberty High schools.

District administrators had originally planned to ask voters for a bond in 2010, but decided to wait until 2012 because of the recession.

The proposed 2012 bond has projects for all of the district’s 24 schools, but the list has yet to be finalized.

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King County, YWCA to hold meeting about Passage Point

June 21, 2011

Safety is on the minds of community members neighboring the future Passage Point facility.

The YWCA will provide housing at Passage Point for men and women recently released from incarceration who wish to reunite with their children. The residents of Passage Point, who would otherwise be homeless, will have access to housing, employment and counseling services. It’s slated to open its doors next month.

A half-dozen community leaders met with representatives from King County and the YWCA, as well as King County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Andrea Alexander at Evergreen Community Church during a May 24 meeting about safety procedures.

Passage Point, in the southern part of the Issaquah School District, has long been a hot topic for the area. Students living at Passage Point will attend Maple Hills Elementary School, Maywood Middle School or Liberty High School.

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