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Five Things to Know About the Issaquah School Board

Issaquah School Board Candidates

Join us on Saturday, October 12, at Blakely Hall at 10:30am for the Issaquah School District Board of Directors Candidate Forum. Four seats are up for election, two of them with contested races. Get to know the candidates, their leadership styles and their positions on issues that impact your children’s education.

But first, let’s get acquainted with the roles and responsibilities of the school board. Here is a brief overview, organized into five topics.

1. The board is created under and operated pursuant to Washington State law.

Each of Washington’s 295 local school districts is governed by its own publicly-elected board of directors. School districts are “subdivisions” of the state; as such, each school district board of directors derives its authority from state law. The Issaquah School Board is made up of five directors, each elected for a four-year term. These directors work together as a board to set the educational direction of our district. The school board is nonpartisan.

2. The board represents the public’s voice in public education.

The role of the board is to ensure that the school district is responsive to the values, beliefs, and priorities of our community. The board fulfills this role by performing certain primary responsibilities:

  1. Set the vision, mission, and strategic goals for the district
  2. Hire, supervise, and evaluate the superintendent
  3. Review, revise, and adopt operating policies
  4. Establish and oversee the financial affairs of the district
  5. Ask voters to approve local bond and levy measures
  6. Serve as community representatives
  7. Monitor the district’s progress towards its goals

3. The board determines the “what,” the superintendent determines the “how.”

The board has adopted a “policy governance” model, meaning that the board sets a strategic vision for the district in the form of a mission, and goals that clearly articulate the results for students that the board expects (called “Ends”). The board then delegates decisions regarding how best to achieve these Ends to a professional administrator selected by the board (the superintendent). The board rigorously and systematically monitors progress towards the Ends but leaves the day-to-day operations of the district to the superintendent.

The board’s vision for Issaquah’s students, as expressed in its current mission statement, is:

Our students will be prepared for and eager to accept the academic, occupational, personal, and practical challenges of life in a dynamic global environment.

To achieve its mission, the board has adopted the following Ends:

  1. Academics and Foundations: Upon graduation, students will be academically prepared and confident to pursue higher education or specialized career training.
  2. Students will live as responsible citizens.
  3. Life Management and Personal Awareness: Students will live healthy, satisfying, and productive lives.

The board has further identified numerous, specific areas of knowledge and skill that students must master by graduation to achieve these Ends.

4. The superintendent recommends, the board approves.

The board has final say on many of the most significant decisions affecting our district’s schools. These decisions typically are first formulated or negotiated by the superintendent, with the assistance of his staff, outside expert consultants, and/or volunteer committees made up of educators, staff, parents, and community members. Examples include local bond and levy measures, adoption of a seven-period schedule for our high schools, periodic school boundary reviews, curriculum adoption, collective bargaining agreements, and the like. The superintendent decides on a course of action, then forwards his recommendation to the board for final approval. The board frequently accepts the superintendent’s recommendations but may change a decision based on public input or other factors. For example, in 2017, the board reduced the superintendent’s ask for a four-year levy at the maximum legal rate per $1,000 of assessed property value, to a two-year levy at a lower rate per $1,000 after listening to feedback from the community and local legislators.

5. The board holds regular open meetings and welcomes public input.

The Issaquah School Board generally meets at 6:00pm on the second and fourth Thursday of each month. The meetings usually are held at the Issaquah School District Administration Building, are open to the public, and include time for public input. Agendas, minutes, data, and other materials are posted on the district website, and audio recordings of the meetings are available via podcast.