The next superintendent of the Issaquah School District will be Ms. Heather Tow-Yick, who is currently the deputy superintendent of the Mukilteo School District. The School Board voted 5-0 to select Tow-Yick from among the three finalists at the culmination of a four-month process that gathered extensive feedback from students, families, staff and community members.
"I am honored and humbled that the Issaquah School Board unanimously selected me to be the next superintendent for Issaquah,” said Tow-Yick, who will now begin contract negotiations with the district. “During my day in the community, I felt a strong energy and excitement for the future of teaching, learning and collaboration together.”
“I want to thank Superintendent Ron Thiele for his incredible leadership and service,” she continued. “I am excited to partner with the School Board, the district team, students, families and the community on a shared vision moving forward."
Members of the board emphasized that each of the three finalists were excellent, with Director Suzanne Weaver describing the high quality of the candidates as an “embarrassment of riches.” Finalists included Dr. Jennifer Bethman of the Bethel School District and Dr. Mary Templeton of the Washougal School District. Each of the three visited our schools earlier this week to talk with board members, students, staff and community representatives. We also shared video interviews with the three candidates, and asked community members to share their thoughts in a survey. Board members spent hours reviewing feedback from the survey and from focus groups with students, staff and community representatives.
“I think for me it was really helpful to see and hear so much feedback,” Director Dr. Harlan Gallinger said. “I feel like even though it is only the five of us who ultimately make a decision tonight, that we’ve gotten touchpoints from thousands of people across this community, hundreds of staff and from our leaders across this district.”
Before moving to Washington state to work in Mukilteo, Tow-Yick served as chief of staff at Teach for America which is based out of New York; and also as chief of staff at Providence Public Schools in Rhode Island, executive director at Teach for America in Rhode Island. She started her career as a classroom teacher in New York City. She earned a Master of Business Administration from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a Master of Arts degree from Columbia University Teachers College in New York, and a bachelor's degree from Brown University in Rhode Island.
A group of high school students from across the district met with each of the three candidates and shared their comments and reactions with the School Board. “Our students’ feedback was quite enlightening. They’re very astute – they really zero in on what’s important,” Board President Anne Moore said. “They really connected with Ms. Tow-Yick. They really found her to be authentic and real and genuine in the way that she listened and really deeply thought about what they were saying.”
Board members spoke to Tow-Yick's balance of experience, authenticity, emphasis on quality communication and collaboration. They noted that the qualities they hoped for, they found in Tow-Yick, and that they heard similar responses from students, staff and community members alike.
Gallinger said one of the questions they asked the candidates was “Describe the process you would use to establish a vision for the school district. What strategies would you use to implement to create an atmosphere of stability and continuity while at the same time initiating change for school improvement?”
Tow-Yick replied “‘Change can only happen at the pace of trust,’” Gallinger recalled. “It gave me great comfort that as we embark on a strategic plan … That it’s not going to be necessarily just her plan. It is going to be how do we collectively move the system forward.”
To read more about the search process, visit our website.
In the photo above, Tow-Yick laughs during a visit to Issaquah High School teacher Jaci Belur's class. In the images below, Tow-Yick talks with IHS Principal Erin Connolly, and visits with a student at the Holly Street Early Learning Center.