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School Board Meeting Recap: Jan. 12, 2023

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The Issaquah School Board held a regular meeting Thursday, Jan. 12, at the Issaquah School District Administration Building. The meeting was open to the public, broadcasted live on the ISD YouTube channel, and a recording of the meeting is available.        

Today we’re sharing a summary of a few of the topics the board and district staff discussed and action the board took at the meeting. It is not an official record or meeting minutes. To review official minutes from all board meetings, please visit our board meeting archive webpage.     


Report out About Work Study Session Regarding Strategic Planning  

Immediately before the Jan. 12 regular session meeting, the board gathered for a work study session with Delivery Associates, the consulting firm helping the district with the recently launched strategic planning process. Reviewing that work study session, the directors described some of the work that has gone into the process since it started, which includes a review of the district’s current mission and Ends (goals) for students, as well as a rapid review of previously gathered community input, data, and more. 

“The exciting part for me is, this is just the beginning,” Director Suzanne Weaver said. “... We are going to come up with something really amazing, and something that we are going to be able to implement.” 

Director Anne Moore said the work study session was a good conversation about creating a framework for the strategic planning work, which will help define the district’s vision, as well as immediate and longer-term goals. Moore said she is excited by the depth of thought around the work being done as part of the process. 

Delivery Associates shared with the board what they heard from students and staff members in a series of interviews, a piece that Director Marnie Maraldo said she appreciates. The input from staff, students and administrators had common elements, and Maraldo said she looks forward to the district building strategies to address the areas of opportunity in a meaningful way. 

Board President Sydne Mullings said she was happy with the idea of looking out 50 years in the future. “Thinking about: Where do we want to be, and what’s the experience that we want for our students; figuring out how do we back up from there and what are the steps we need to take,” Mullings said. “I’m excited about the work and the upcoming milestones.” 

Note: We’ll share more about the district’s Strategic Planning in the upcoming issue of our Horizons newsletter. Stay tuned for a webpage about Strategic Planning that we will also share soon

To watch the board’s full discussion about the Work Study Session, visit our YouTube Channel


Introduction of New Administrator 

Superintendent Tow-Yick introduced Marcel Hauser, the district’s new Senior Advisor for Strategy. Hauser most recently worked for the Mukilteo School District, as the director of Strategy and Project Management, and led that district’s Strategic Planning Process. He is a University of Washington graduate with an MBA and a master's degree in data analytics.  

To watch Tow-Yick’s introduction of Marcel Hauser, visit our YouTube Channel


Budget Development Guidelines 

Each school year, the board approves Budget Development Guidelines for administrators to use in creating that year’s budget for the board’s consideration and eventual adoption. Staff members and the board reviewed the budget guidelines from the prior year, as well as the timeline for this year’s budget process.* 

In a prior work study session about the budget, members of the board asked staff: 

  • To prioritize aligning this year’s budget with the Strategic Plan, which is currently under development;  

  • To focus on equity in directing resources to areas of highest need; 

  • To adhere to the district’s Ends for students

  • To use a revenue-generating mindset to ensure costs are covered for fee-based activities. 

During this year’s budget process, the board has also asked staff to: 

  • Provide additional context for any potential reductions; 

  • Communicate frequently and consistently throughout the budget process; 

  • Engage with union groups; 

  • Involve the community; 

  • Provide a “menu” of options for budget reductions for the board’s consideration; 

  • Follow Executive Limitation 4 (Internal - Actual Financial Condition and Activities), Executive Limitation 5 (External – Actual Financial Condition) and Governance Process 9 (Cost of Governance). 

Directors made several suggestions for updates to the budget guidelines, and will review the document again at the board’s Jan. 26 meeting. 

“As we have this (budget decision) discussion, difficult decisions are going to be made, and what I appreciate is that … we’re going to have something available to staff, and for us, to really be able to better prepare for this,” Director Marnie Maraldo said. “It is hard, because it just comes down to: Budget cuts will impact students, it will impact staff, and there’s just no way that that doesn’t happen.” 
For the full discussion about the Budget Development Guidelines, visit our YouTube Channel

*[As a reminder for our students, staff, families and community, the district continues to face a significant budget deficit. The board cut $11.83 million from the 2022-23 budget; the remaining deficit is at least $17.5 million. A number of factors caused the deficit, including declining enrollment at the elementary levels, changes in school funding allocation and levy collection from the Legislature, COVID costs paired with a relatively low amount of federal COVID relief dollars, increasing inflation, unfunded mandates and more.] 

Monitoring Report Ends 2 Part 1 

Chief Academic and Student Success Officer Dr. Dana Bailey and Executive Director of Teaching and Learning Services Rich Mellish talked with the board about the Monitoring Report for Ends 2 Part 1. Ends 2 addresses Academics and Foundations.  

This report is a significant change from prior years, Superintendent Tow-Yick said, both in the approach to the report and in the type of evidence that is provided in the report. The information focuses on fewer data points to allow for deeper analysis and connections in order to consider the student experience as they progress through the system, she noted. It also has a focus on closing opportunity gaps. 

Mellish said that examining the data in the report led to good conversations about both the successes in the system and the disproportionalities. The school teams are working very hard to adjust learning plans based on real-time indicators and results, Mellish said. “Whether that’s tiered teams, administrative teams, counseling teams – whether that’s looking at D and F rates, whether that’s looking at the progress monitoring data we’re doing multiple times per year,” he continued. “We’re creating protocols throughout our system for staff at the individual level, the classroom level, the school level and the district level to use this data to be as proactive and responsive as possible.” 

The board approved the report 5-0. 

For the full discussion of the Monitoring Report about Ends 2 Part 1, visit our YouTube Channel


Works in Progress 

Superintendent Tow-Yick first thanked the members of the board for their time and dedication, in honor of School Board Recognition Month, reading aloud a proclamation from Gov. Jay Inslee. She congratulated the board on being recognized by the Washington State School Directors Association as a Board of Distinction, and noted that the members of the current board have served our community for a collective 55 years.  

Tow-Yick also shared about other items of note from throughout the district including: 

  • Dr. Dana Bailey has stepped into an expanded role as the district’s Chief Academic and Student Success Officer, a decision that was made to bring greater consistency and cohesion to the district’s work in Teaching and Learning Services and Special Services. [Bailey’s former title was Assistant Superintendent of Special Services.] 

  • Multiple schools lost power during the recent windstorms, including Issaquah Middle School, Newcastle Elementary, Creekside Elementary, Maple Hills Elementary and Cascade Ridge Elementary. Tow-Yick said that she appreciates the principals and staff for making sure that learning continued. She thanked the district’s Facilities and Maintenance teams for responding to the outages, fallen trees and other issues. She also thanked Food Service teams for figuring out quickly how to transfer food from one building to another; and/or determining how to serve a cold lunch on short notice. 

  • Media updates: 

    • An editorial was published recently in the Seattle Times, stating “Incarcerated kids need libraries, too.” The piece included inaccurate information, which Tow-Yick and Echo Glen Principal Allison Ilgenfritz addressed in a letter to the editor

    • Congratulations to Issaquah High School student Riya Bathina, who was selected as a “Student Voices” writer for the Seattle Times. 

  • We have kindergarten registration coming up for the class of 2035.  

  • Recruitment is in full swing, with the Human Resources team using several new ideas to help attract applicants, including the Handshake platform and inserts in the ValPak mailings in an attempt to reach potential applicants for the district’s many openings. 

  • Tow-Yick related a story from her most recent visit to Cascade Ridge, where she asked a few fourth graders why they think a student should attend Cascade Ridge. Their answers were learning, fun, safety and classroom rewards. 

To watch the full discussion of works in progress, visit our YouTube Channel. 


Report out About Town Hall 

The board hosted its second Town Hall of the school year on Jan. 10 at the Administration Building and also via Zoom. 

Director Weaver noted that the Town Halls are designed for the board to take questions from those who attend, and answer the most requested questions (attendees rank the questions using a system called Mentimeter). Separately, the board has hosted listening sessions that are designed solely to listen and not respond. “For the board, those are two very different things,” Weaver said, noting that some attendees seemed frustrated that the board members talked so much during the event. “Maybe it’s incumbent upon us to be a little bit more clear about what we think a Town Hall is,” she added. 

Superintendent Heather Tow-Yick said that she wanted to follow up on one of the questions from the Town Hall regarding hate speech, and noted that the district has several policies that address hate speech, including Regulation 3207 (Prohibition Against Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying), Regulation 3241 (Classroom Management, Discipline and Corrective Action) along with a corresponding procedure, a Student Code of Conduct and an Equitable Code of Conduct. Tow-Yick encouraged anyone who sees or hears something to say something by reporting that incident to a staff member or administrator, or via one of the district’s online reporting tools

Board President Sydne Mullings described herself as a “lover of Town Halls,” and said that she thinks they offer an important opportunity to make connections. Mullings also reiterated that Town Halls are not designed for giving specific operational answers, and that the role of the School Board directors is occasionally misunderstood by members of the public. Overall, the Town Halls seem to be useful to community members, she said. 

To watch the board’s full discussion about the Town Hall, visit our YouTube Channel. 


Student Representatives Offer Input About Executive Limitation 10 (Structure of Schools) 

Student Representatives to the School Board regularly share direct student feedback with the board from their respective schools, so that the board and district staff can include that input in their monitoring reports and other work across our schools. The representatives present feedback on a rotating basis so that the board can hear from all the high schools in turn.  

At the Jan. 12 meeting, student representatives from Liberty and Skyline high schools shared how assemblies impact classroom time; calendar, bell times and schedule; the effects of schedule on mental health; homework load; length of class periods; flex time; instructional time and more. 

To hear the full comments from the Student Representatives to the School Board, visit our YouTube Channel




  • Finance
  • School Board
  • Strategic Planning
  • Superintendent
  • Teaching & Learning Services

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