Liberty High School community speaks out against schedule change

October 16, 2012

It’s a little after 9 o’clock on a Thursday morning at Liberty High School and Marcus Milyko is working on his short video “Hidden Places,” which airs on the monthly broadcast show that is written, filmed and edited by the TV and Video Production class.

“I want to do video in my life,” he said. “I love all parts of it.”

But film wasn’t always Marcus’s passion. He hadn’t thought too much about it until Liberty’s film production course caught his eye last year when he was searching for a class. It’s this sort of chance to find a passion that Marcus, and many others in the Liberty community, are concerned will be lost if the district goes through with a proposal to change the high school’s schedule.

“Because of the eight-period schedule, I found this and without it I never would have,” Marcus said to members of the Issaquah School Board during its Oct. 10 meeting.

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Grand Ridge Elementary welcomes winds of change, Puget Sound Energy turbine

October 9, 2012

Students stand near the Grand Ridge Elementary School wind turbine Oct. 2. By Lillian O’Rorke

Grand Ridge Elementary School embraced the winds that frequently blow through the playground when it teamed with Puget Sound Energy on Oct. 2 to dedicate its new wind turbine.

To welcome the new addition, students and staff were joined by members of the community, including Superintendent Steve Rasmussen, for a celebratory assembly, which was made complete by the choral talents of Grand Ridge’s fifth-graders.

The project got its start in 2009 when Steve Crawford, the district’s director of capital projects, began measuring the wind at the school’s Issaquah Highlands location and approached Puget Sound Energy. Two years later, the school got a $10,900 grant from the company’s Renewable Energy Education Program and the small-scale wind turbine was erected May 3.

At 45 feet tall and 12 feet across at the top, it can generate up to 1.8 kilowatts of energy, which is enough energy to power 30 60-watt light bulbs.

The grant also included materials and support — including science lesson training, classroom activity guides and renewable-energy kits — so that in addition to powering part of the school, the turbine will teach students about wind energy and renewable resources.

Issaquah School District outscores others on statewide assessments

September 4, 2012

Students in the Issaquah School District continued to outscore the state in all categories on 2012 assessments, according to results released Aug. 29 by the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

“This is just the beginning of our work,” Superintendent Steve Rasmussen said in a statement. “We get into the nitty-gritty details of our assessment scores, and individual schools and teachers use them to target and make plans to help all students, groups of students and individual students succeed.”

Scores released include results from the 2012 administration of the Measurements of Student Progress, High School Proficiency Exams, and math and biology EOC exams. The EOC exams are taken by students whenever they complete the corresponding coursework, regardless of their grade. This is a change from a generic math and science assessment taken by all sophomores.

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Issaquah School Board tackles long to-do list

August 28, 2012

Over the course of two days the Issaquah School Board and several of the district’s administrative members met Aug. 21-22 for the Board Cabinet Retreat.

Marnie Maraldo

With participants shuffling between the library at Issaquah Valley Elementary School and a meeting space in the administration building, it wasn’t as glamorous as the name would suggest. Nor was it held in the resort town of Leavenworth, as is the choice of other school districts.

What it was, though, was 14 hours of discussion regarding everything from the new teacher/principal evaluation pilot program to scheduling to the importance of science and math, and the consumption of a whole lot of M&Ms.

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Brian Deagle is new Issaquah School Board president

August 28, 2012

Chad Magendanz has stepped down as president of the Issaquah School Board. Brian Deagle has been named Magendanz’s predecessor, effective immediately.

Brian Deagle

The announcement came at the end of the Aug. 22 school board meeting. Magendanz is running as a Republican for the 5th Legislative District seat in the state House of Representatives and cited the upcoming political debate season as his reason for passing the gavel.

“The only person who can really speak for the board is the board president,” he said. “And there was concern that there would be confusion when I talk in a debate as to who I’m speaking for — the board or myself.”

He added that the beginning of the school year seemed like the most logical point to step down.

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Welcome back from Superintendent Steve Rasmussen

August 21, 2012

Steve Rasmussen

New school year begins amid cycle of change and improvement

Every student enters a new school year ready for learning, surprises, challenges and successes — and, even after 24 years as a superintendent, it’s exactly the same for me! Our schools open Sept. 4, and — just like the state of education in general — we in the Issaquah School District are in a constant cycle of change and improvement. For instance, this school year we will adopt new curriculum including K-5 reading/literacy, middle school Humanities Plus, and high school world language, precalculus and calculus.

But the materials are just the foundation: Our educators will put in hours of professional development to prepare. Another significant change is our work piloting the new teacher/principal evaluation system for the state; we want to be on the forefront of continuing to support all of our professionals to do their very best work!

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Refinancing bonds saves Issaquah School District $3.9 million

July 31, 2012

Steve Rasmussen

With the lowest interest rates in 40 years, the Issaquah School District saved nearly $4 million July 24 when it refinanced $41.73 million of bonds originally sold in 2006.

The district also sold $55 million worth of new bonds that day.

“The sale went as good as we could have expected it,” said Jake Kuper, the district’s chief of Finance and Operations. “Not only is it a good time to build but it’s a good time to borrow, so it’s a double bonus.”

Kuper, Superintendent Steve Rasmussen and school board members Marnie Maraldo, Anne Moore and Suzanne Weaver attended the 6:45 a.m. sale of the bonds at Seattle-Northwest Securities, which assisted in the sale. Refinancing the nearly $42 million of old bonds meant the interest rate when down from 5 percent to 1.89 percent, meaning that $3.9 million will be saved over the next 10 years.

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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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Issaquah School District schools welcome new principals

July 10, 2012

The Issaquah School District is welcoming several new faces this month.

Superintendent Steve Rasmussen recently announced the arrival of three new principals. Starting July 1, Michael Schiehser took over at Tiger Mountain Community High School, Tod Wood started at Clark Elementary School and Stacy Cho took the helm at Beaver Lake Middle School.

Schiehser began his career teaching high school science in Southern California and is a national board certified teacher. He joined the Mercer Island School District in 2005 as an associate principal at Mercer Island High School.

He has also served as the director of instruction and assessment and secondary learning support, before moving to his current position as director of teaching and learning, which includes the responsibility of serving as the primary instructional leader at Mercer Island High School.

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Issaquah School District superintendent passes evaluation; contract is extended

June 26, 2012

Superintendent Steve Rasmussen’s contract has been extended for one year to June 30, 2015.

The Issaquah School Board met in a two-hour executive session June 19 to discuss Rasmussen and voted to extend his contract June 20 at its regular board meeting. State law requires the board to evaluate and take action on the superintendent’s contract every year before July 1.

There were no major changes to Rasmussen’s contract. That includes no changes to his $212,100 salary. However, one adjustment was made to allow him to cash in his 10 days of accrued vacation.

“At this point he is not taking too many vacations and we didn’t want to penalize him for being at work,” school board President Chad Magendanz said.

Board members also used the occasion to thank Rasmussen for his work on various issue like literacy and his help in getting the recent $219 million bond passed.

“I don’t think anyone could have anticipated over a 70 percent approval,” Magendanz said. “So, I really need to give the superintendent and the staff kudos.”

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