A few years ago I was assigned to cover a controversial school board meeting in Renton. The room was packed with angry families, who each took a turn berating the board. Then a teacher from Dimmit Middle School took the podium.
The reason for her unexpected presence was different from the rest.
For several months she and a colleague had been trying to get their principal and then the district to help them with a problem in the new books for their 13-year-olds in their classroom. The only reading materials they were given, designed to tempt kids into reading, were filled with “racy” content. To make a lasting point, the two teachers read from the books.
What came out was an litany of racial slurs, sexual promiscuity and profanity. The audience listened in silence when a father shouted with such disgust that I’ll never forget, “You gave this stuff to children?”
It was an embarrassment. The district rightly responded by tossing the books the next day, but the teachers never got replacements. For whatever reason, the district didn’t have the resources to equip the classrooms with basic tools. And, unlike Issaquah, Renton didn’t have a schools foundation to help solve the problem.
Once again this year, as it has for two decades, the Issaquah School District was able to introduce new curriculum to its students, K-5 literacy, with the tremendous help of Issaquah Schools Foundation. The foundation raised money to pay for reading rooms, each loaded with 3,600 books, in 15 elementary schools.
Renton didn’t have that luxury – a community willing to stand up. It wasn’t just a matter of money – Renton takes in about $500 more per student than Issaquah – but a matter of allowing the community to support its priorities.
When Issaquah couldn’t afford to install a new elementary science curriculum two years ago, the foundation stepped up and made it a priority. It’s a partnership that’s paid off. Science is important to our white-collar techie families, but be grateful, even when money goes to the simple stuff.
While literacy curriculum hasn’t been a hot topic for the district, which stretches from Liberty to Skyline, the community should take pride in the $350,000 it gave to make those reading rooms happen. The community’s interest is the key behind Issaquah’s success.