I feel deeply honored and grateful for the opportunity to serve as your superintendent. Together, we are building upon the great work that students, staff, families and community members have done through the years.
After starting work here in July of 2022, I launched my First 100 Days Plan to learn about our schools, staff teams and facilities. I wanted to hear directly from our teachers and staff members, our students, parents and guardians, community and business leaders – all those who call our district home. I visited buildings, classrooms and departments throughout the district and attended community events, and will continue to do just that!
While I'm still learning about the Issaquah School District Community, a few things were immediately clear to me, including our district’s strong sense of excellence for academic programming and achievement. The members of the Superintendent's Cabinet and I will seek to uphold and grow those. Moving forward, it is important to provide our students who need additional support and services with these resources to ensure access to the opportunities that enable them to unlock their passion and potential.
I also look forward to working with all of you to ensure that the programs and activities we offer our students – and that we invest our financial resources in – are ones that work.
As I update this message in February of 2023, we’re in the midst of several key processes to accomplish that goal:
A thorough review of programs and initiatives districtwide: Each cabinet member listed their team’s key tasks and functions, explained why those actions matter to our district Ends (goals) for students, and assessed how much time and money it takes to accomplish those tasks.
Strategic planning: Using direct feedback and input from our students, staff and community, our team is working with consultants to create a three-year strategic plan with a clear vision, goals, actions and metrics. Stay tuned for updates.
Budget work and reductions: As you have likely read in district communications about the budget in the past two years, our district is facing a significant deficit. We are assessing what is working and not working for our students; and we are working to align our business operations with our educational programming. Our budget should also align with the priorities in our strategic plan.
In addition to our strategic planning and budget work, we remain committed to our journey of engaging in more inclusive and cross-cultural ways. I enjoy reading about and learning from others about their life experiences, and I invite you all to join me in that pursuit, so that we can work together to provide better access for our students to pursue their potential and passion. We will continue to support our students in the ways that they each need as individuals, from mental health services to social emotional learning.
If I haven’t had the opportunity to meet you yet, here’s a quick overview of my path before I joined the ISD. I began my career in education teaching English and U.S. History, and have worked in multiple school district and nonprofit organizations including Mukilteo School District, Providence Public Schools, New York City Department of Education and Teach For America. Two of my core values are equity and excellence, rooted in my culture and my upbringing. I identify as Chinese American, and was raised as an only child by my mom with the support of our extended family. I spent a lot of time with my maternal grandmother and grandfather when my mom worked at the family restaurant on weekends and at night. My mother, grandmother and grandfather always engaged in the work of building community, engaging civically, and helping others, something I seek to emulate to honor their legacy.
I am committed to listening to all voices, and to two-way communication. I look forward to connecting with you and continuing to build our community together, with vision, shared understanding and purpose.
Heather previously served as deputy superintendent of the Mukilteo School District, also in Washington. Prior to Mukilteo, Tow-Yick was chief of staff to the CEO at Teach For America and launched the organization’s work in Rhode Island. Her experience also includes roles as chief transformation officer and chief of staff for Providence Public Schools, consultant at the Bridgespan Group, and special assistant to former New York City Department of Education Chancellor Joel Klein. She began her career as a middle school English teacher in the Bronx.
Tow-Yick has a master’s in secondary English education from Columbia University Teachers College and an MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Brown University.
The March 9 School Board meeting included a discussion about the 2023-24 Budget, a review of the work study session about Capital Projects, a monitoring report of the Executive Limitation regarding Equity, and more.
Last week, the School Board received a significant budget update. While a budget reduction is still necessary, it will be smaller than previous projections and discussions indicated. A Reduction in Force (RIF) of certificated staff members is not part of the proposed reductions.
We have been developing a three-year strategic plan for the Issaquah School District, using prior and ongoing community feedback and involvement. In today's Community Update video, Superintendent Heather Tow-Yick and School Board President Sydne Mullings share why a vision is an important piece of that plan, and invite you to share your thoughts.
At the Feb. 9 School Board meeting, directors approved this year's set of Budget Development Guidelines. Staff members also shared with the board an accompanying timeline of critical steps and target dates in the process, including a community listening session planned for March 2.
During its Feb. 9 meeting, the School Board discussed Budget Development Guidelines and timeline; heard a report about works in progress; received an update about the Student Representatives to the School Board program; listened to student input about Executive Limitation 12 regarding learning environment; high school graduation requirements for the class of 2027; and discussed other topics.
In today's Community Update video, Superintendent Heather Tow-Yick shares about the district's strategic planning process, including: what a strategic plan is, how a strategic plan can help us align our spending with our priorities, utilize our strengths, and bring cohesion to the district's direction and choices; and more.