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Superintendent's Message

State of Education Banner - pictured: Issaquah High, Liberty High, Skyline High

August 2018

Dear Issaquah School District Community,

For decades the Issaquah School District has been among the top performing districts academically in Washington State. Much has changed in the Issaquah School District, our nation, and our world since I began working in the District as principal at Issaquah Middle School in 2001. Since then, the ISD has grown from a semi-rural suburban district of 13,000 students and 19 schools. Today we run 24 schools with nearly 21,000 students, operate the education program at Echo Glen juvenile detention center, and will build four new schools in the next five years to try to keep pace with the growth in our region. 

Image of PBSES Second Step Lesson at Maple Hills Elementary

While growth is the most obvious, there are many other changes. Microsoft, Amazon, and other technology companies have been bringing in a workforce from all over the world. The students and families in our District today reflect that diversity. Technology and social media have changed every facet of our lives, including the way we work, communicate, and educate. Our task as educators is to prepare students for jobs and careers in fields that do not even exist yet. Therefore, like all organizations, the Issaquah School District has had to adjust to changing times. I am proud of the hard work and dedication of our staff in meeting the challenge of change while maintaining high academic performance, continuing to have one of the highest graduation rates in the state, and earning our sixteenth consecutive clean financial audit from the State of Washington.

However, we have more work to do. Our human resources department works tirelessly to recruit high quality teachers in the midst of an extreme national teacher shortage. Further, they are working to recruit teachers and staff from diverse backgrounds to better reflect the diversity of students in our classrooms. We are concerned that when we look at our data, our students of color or with special needs are not performing as well academically as their peers. This, as well as concerns around the disparities in discipline rates we see among students from different races, has prompted our District and school board to address equity issues. Our commitment is to ensure that all students who walk through our doors learn in an environment that supports their growth. 

Our District, like many others around the nation, is experiencing higher incidents of mental health and social-emotional behavior issues among our students. To address student needs, we partner with Swedish Hospital and Friends of Youth to bring mental health counselors into our schools to support our students and school counselors. Our District has also adopted a system wide program called Positive Behavior and Social Emotional Support (PBSES). PBSES includes dedicated student support coaches who also support teachers so they can keep the focus on instruction in the classroom. We have also invested in additional safety and security measures, such as new building entry systems, more security cameras, and updated emergency protocols and plans. 

Image of Construction Site - Concrete Being Poured

All of these initiatives are backed by local levy dollars and we thank voters for approving our recent Programs and Operations, School Bus, and Capital Improvements and Technology Levies. In order for our students to succeed and collaborate globally, we need to look beyond academics solely and support the whole child. Our partners in the PTA and Issaquah Schools Foundation invest time and monetary resources to support a wide range of programs that enrich students’ lives beyond what the state provides for basic education. The Issaquah School District has benefited from the increased funding from the new state funding model, and we do thank our legislators for their efforts in meeting their paramount duty to amply fund public education. Their work amounts to one of the greatest changes in the way public education has been funded in the state’s history. As with anything new of this scale, we know our legislators will be hard at work addressing crucial elements of the new funding model to ensure it works for all districts in every community across the state.

Funding for public education is a national issue. I would be remiss if I did not address that all across the country, we are seeing educators speaking out about teacher salaries. In Washington, there is much uncertainty as well as differing opinions about the new state funding model and how that will impact local contract negotiations all across the state. Today the demands and expectations of our teachers are greater than ever. Their role in preparing students to accept the academic, occupational, personal, and practical challenges of life in a dynamic global environment— the very mission of our District—cannot be understated. No matter what the future brings, we remain committed to our mission and to accomplishing it in a fiscally responsible manner, for it is an honor and a privilege to serve our community and the students who come through our doors each school day.

Sincerely, 
Ron Thiele Signature
Superintendent Ron Thiele