The Reporter sat down with Issaquah School District Superintendent Steve Rasmussen to discuss his perspective on goals and issues the district is facing in the new school year.
Q: Last year was a pretty good year for the district, anything you want to tout?
A: Number one, the bond issue passed 70 percent plus. In order to have that to happen, an army of community members had to be involved.
Another was the implementation of our K-5 science program, which really helped add rigor and a much more relevant science curriculum.
Q: Districts have been transitioning their alternative schools over the past few years to make them more focused on career and tech. Is that the vision for Tiger Mountain High School?
A: We’re just at the beginning of the process. With the hiring of Michael Schiehser (as principal) at Tiger Mountain and the passage of the bond issue, it gives us a chance to really look at the focus of Tiger Mountain. Once students graduate high school, we would really like them to be focused on career paths, so they have a better idea of what to do next. The reconstruction of Tiger will take place in the next 3-4 years. Before that happens, we’re going to be thinking about how we might reconfigure the school.
Q: How are you feeling about your budget this year?
A: There weren’t any state funding cuts to education for us to start this new year. After three years of cuts of over $16 million, we were happy to see the zero cuts.
The latest state budget forecast is in the black, which is always a good sign. We’ve still got a long ways to go from where it was.
Q: What are your thoughts on charter schools?
A: First, I always remind folks, that’s up to the voters. Whatever I think about it is interesting, but it doesn’t have much impact.
Charter schools will not impact the districts around here, particularly because of how the charter bill has been written. It identifies the lower-performing schools. The thing about the Issaquah district is we have great schools that people are trying to get into.
Personally, I don’t think it’s (charter schools) a good thing for education. We have bigger issues to deal with. Some people are really convinced it’s going to change things. So far, throughout the country, it hasn’t, but it’s up to the people.
Q: What do you feel is the biggest challenge for your students?
A: It’s the balance between school and home life, with all the more expectations on our kids to do well academically, to be involved in their community and to be active in outside activities. We also aren’t reducing the academic rigor and expectations for our kids. There is even more push for our kids to go on to post-secondary education.
Q: Most young kids are encouraged to pursue their dreams. What was yours?
A: My dream was to be a vocational agriculture teacher, and that’s what I became. I grew up on a big farm, and I really enjoyed school, and I really enjoyed being engaged in the farming operation. So that’s what I pursued in college. What really pushed me that direction – I had a great teacher.
Q: What are you looking forward to most this coming school year?
A: Last year we implemented the new science curriculum. We’re doing the same thing with the new K-5 literacy program.
The other thing is we’re moving into several of the new facilities. That includes the new Briarwood Elementary, upgrade of Maywood Middle School, remodel at Challenger Elementary and ending phase 1 of the Liberty High School project.
The last thing I’d throw in there is working in implementing this new principal-teacher evaluation program. The intent was to find a better way of identifying teachers who are good at teaching and those who are not.