Apr 162016

A great article about how the Issaquah School District’s energy efficiency saves us all money. Just another example of the District’s stellar fiscal responsibility and commitment to local residents.

Issaquah Reporter – April 13, 2016

PSE awards Issaquah School District $54,000-plus for energy savings

by DANIEL NASH,  Issaquah Reporter Staff Writer 

Apr 13, 2016

Puget Sound Energy presented the Issaquah School Board with an incentive check for $54,404 on March 23.

The check was awarded for the school district’s participation in the Resource Conservation Managers program.

The program forgoes an equipment-focused take on energy management in favor of methods that emphasize operations, maintenance and behavior — such as making sure a building isn’t heating itself too early or too late, Beth Robinweiler of PSE said.

The district has been involved with PSE energy efficiency programs since 1997 and began its most recent participation in the Resource Conservation Managers program in 2011.

Twenty-eight buildings participated. Energy use was reduced by a million kilowatt hours — a 4.6 percent reduction — and 24,600 therms.

“That is enough electricity and gas to power one of your middle schools for a year,” Robinweiler told the School Board.

The district’s resource conservation manager, Chris Bruno, was hired permanently as the energy use manager.

Bruno said his goal was to expand the use of LED lighting beyond the 60,000 bulbs currently being used — first on his list being the School Board chambers.

“That technology is exploding right now,” he said. “The prices are dropping, the technology is improving … And so my ultimate goal in the district is to have it be completely, 100 percent, LED lit.”

DANIEL NASH,  Issaquah Reporter Staff Writer 

dnash@issaquahreporter.com or 425-654-0383


Apr 052016

East of Seattle News Editorial

Editorial — Issaquah school bond deserves voter support

April 5, 2016

recent public hearing at City Hall Northwest on the Issaquah School District’s proposed construction and maintenance bond attracted exactly one speaker: a member of the Issaquah School Board, who spoke in favor of the $533 million question that is going before voters this month.

It’s apparent the district has a good thing going. It seems as if every time the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction releases new education statistics, Issaquah shines. Chronic absenteeism? Among the lowest in the state. Graduation rates? Among the highest. One local housing development under construction trumpeted the “renowned Issaquah School District” in its promotional materials.

And those housing developments are the reason property taxes would not rise if voters approve the bond. Issaquah’s explosive growth, adding more and more residents to the tax base, means the district can ask citizens for half a billion dollars and still keep the tax rate at or below the current $4.14 per $1,000 of assessed property value. That’s $2,070 if your home is valued at $500,000.

All those new residents are bringing new students with them. The district says it has grown by more than 2,000 students in the past four years and expects to add between 1,500 and 2,000 students in the next five. Hence, the need for school construction.

The bond would pay for a new high school, the district’s fourth, at a budgeted cost of $120 million, according to the district. A new middle school, the district’s sixth, is projected to cost $74 million. A rebuild of Pine Lake Middle School will run $71 million. Two new elementary schools are expected to cost a combined $74 million. And land acquisition for the four brand-new schools is budgeted at $97 million.

In addition, six existing elementary schools would be remodeled and modernized at a projected cost of $7 million to $9 million each.

If the bond fails, taxes would drop, but not significantly. According to statistics provided by the district, by 2019, the tax rate would decline to about $3.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value, or $1,750 on a $500,000 home. Is that reduction of less than $300 annually in taxes worth overcrowded schools and outdated facilities?

Vote yes on the Issaquah School District bond April 26.


Mar 252016

Issaquah Reporter – March 25, 2016

Issaquah endorses $500 million school construction bond

by DANIEL NASH,  Issaquah Reporter Staff Writer 

Mar 24, 2016

A half-billion dollar capital projects bond measure to build and rebuild Issaquah schools has received its stamp of approval from the Issaquah School District’s namesake city.

The Issaquah City Council voted Monday night to endorse Proposition 1 in the April 26 special election.

The approval came following a public hearing for the school construction bond. The only Issaquah resident to speak was School Board member Lisa Callan, who thanked the council for their support.

If approved by voters, the bond will authorize $533.5 million to construct four new school campuses across all primary and secondary grade levels and rebuild or modernize several others.

The funds will come from general obligation bonds to be repaid through property taxes.

Councilmember Bill Ramos said he hoped all Issaquah voters would support the bond.

“My children are … out of the school system,” he said. “But schools are important for all of us. The schools that make our community make our future.”

Mar 162016

Issaquah Press – March 16, 2016

New bond issue arrived ahead of schedule, but officials say waiting wasn’t practical

By Tom Corrigan

In April 2012, about 70 percent of Issaquah School District voters approved a $219 million bond package to fund capital projects throughout the district.

Some of those projects are still underway, such as the new $19.5 million Clark Elementary School and the related rebuilding of Issaquah Middle School for $64 million.

Even as that work moves forward, the district is asking for approval of a $533 million bond package that, among other things, will fund a fourth district high school, a sixth middle school and two new elementary schools – Nos. 16 and 17.

Back in 2012, district officials advertised that another bond package would not be needed for six years. In talking about the current bond package, Suzanne Weaver, a member of the district board of directors now and in 2012, doesn’t hesitate to admit the district did not reach its goal of waiting for six years to go back to voters. Ultimately, the plan was to line up bond campaigns to fund capital projects with levy campaigns for operating dollars, but that didn’t happen.

“That would have been nice,” Weaver said.

She and others said two key factors led district leaders to believe they just couldn’t wait another two years to float a bond question.

One issue is the residential growth within the district, which inevitably leads to a growing student population. The district grew by more than 2,000 students in the past four years, and what district officials call conservative projections show an additional 1,500 to 2,000 new students walking through school doors in the next five years. Calls for smaller class sizes and all day kindergarten are also adding to the need for additional space. Weaver said all-day kindergarten means 16 additional classrooms will be needed.

By making use of libraries, computer rooms and so on, Weaver said all-day kindergarten would be offered next year with or without passage of the bond package.

The growing scarcity of land available for new schools was another important factor in the decision to go to back to voters this year. Weaver said not only is it getting more difficult to find room for new schools, the property that is available is only getting more and more expensive. One estimate put property acquisition costs at close to $100 million.

One thing that not’s getting more and more expensive is local property taxes, at least not because of schools, said Weaver and Alicia Veevaert, vice-president of Volunteers for Issaquah Schools. VIS is a grassroots group running the bond campaign.

The bond sale will add nothing to district property tax rates, according to information from VIS and the district. However, as previous bonds and debts are paid off, tax rates will not go down.

At present, tax rates sit at about $4.14 per $1,000 in property valuation.

Besides four new buildings, some of the planned projects include a $71 million rebuild of Pine Lake Middle School. An upgrade of Beaver Lake Middle School would run $8.5 million. Five existing elementary schools would be revamped at a cost of

$7 million to $9 million each. The central administration building would get a revamp and expansion with a price tag of $7.5 million.

The bond proceeds also would fund $6 million in portable classrooms, $6 million for project management and a $12 million reserve or contingency fund.

Officials have steadfastly declined to identify where new schools might go. The reason is to avoid sudden price hikes or getting into a bidding war with developers, said L. Michelle, district director of communications. Weaver did say that a spot somewhere between Issaquah and Skyline high schools would be ideal for the new high school.

Mar 152016

Issaquah Press – March 15, 2016

Volunteers out to sell voters on Issaquah school bond measure

By Tom Corrigan

As state law bars school districts from spending public money on levy or bond campaigns, almost all districts have a grassroots, volunteer organization to run public campaigns.

For the Issaquah School District that group is Volunteers for Issaquah Schools. Founded in 1977, the organization is an official nonprofit. Since a kickoff event in January, VIS has been running a campaign to help pass the $533.5 million capital project bond issue on the April 26 ballot. Bond issues in the state need a supermajority of 60 percent to pass.

The VIS has run successful levy or bond issues in the past. But the group this time is trying to reach audiences they may have previously missed, said Alicia Veevaert, VIS vice president.

For example, she said VIS put on a presentation for the Sammamish Mosque.

“They were very welcoming,” said Dawn Peschek, VIS president.

Both Peschek and Veevaert talked about the usual school campaign strategies: mail drops, a possible phone bank, honk-and-wave events and so on. In addition to locations such as the Sammamish Mosque, VIS representatives have appeared anyplace they’ve been invited to speak.

“We’ve done presentations at each and every school,” said Veevaert.

They’ve also been to meetings of the city councils in Issaquah and Sammamish and homeowner groups all around the area. And besides selling the bond, VIS runs a steady get-out-the-vote campaign.

The deadline to register online in order to vote in the April election is March 28. In-person registrations for first-time voters will be taken until eight days prior to the election, or April 18. Ballots will be mailed April 6. VIS has a mailing going out to voters that same day.

District numbers show only about 30 percent of area voters have children in the school system.
“We kind of expect them to vote support us,” said Suzanne Weaver, a member of the district’s board of directors and the VIS treasurer. She said the key is getting to those voters without children.

“Every votes counts,” Veevaert added. She noted a past Snoqualmie Valley issue failed by a single vote. In Enumclaw, an issue passed by a mere four votes.

“Please mail back those ballots,” Veevaert said.

The last day to return ballots is Election Day, April 26.

Go to visvote.org to visit the VIS website, or kingcounty.gov/depts/elections for voting information.

May 132015

Issaquah Press:

Committee approves $518 million school bond proposal

May 12, 2015

By Neil Pierson

A committee of parents, principals and other educational leaders has approved a plan that would ask Issaquah School District voters for more than a half-billion dollars to build four new schools and modernize several others.

At a May 6 meeting, the district’s bond feasibility and development committee approved a package that would raise $518.5 million in voter-approved funds. The bond measure would likely appear on ballots in spring 2016.

The final item to be added to the proposal is a big one: $120 million for a fourth comprehensive high school. The school would likely be built for a core population of 1,500 – smaller than Skyline and Issaquah high schools, but bigger than Liberty, which finished an expansion and modernization project last year.

Another $148.5 million would go toward building a new middle school and two new elementary schools. That would give the district a total of six middle schools and 17 elementary schools.

Continue Reading


Jan 212014

Issaquah Press:
Capital levy proposal has many targets

By Neil Pierson

Visitors to Issaquah Valley Elementary School might not notice any differences in how meals are served to the roughly 560 students, but the kitchen staff there has appreciated upgrades.

As part of a $5.6 million “critical repairs” levy passed by Issaquah School District voters in February 2010, more than $850,000 was spent to replace outdated equipment in several school kitchens.

Brian Olson, the district’s director of food services, said the improvements occurred largely at six elementary schools — Challenger, Cougar Ridge, Discovery, Endeavour, Sunset and Issaquah Valley.

“It was really upgrading a lot of the older kitchen equipment that’s been in place for 10, 15, 20 years or so,” he said.


Jan 142014

Issaquah Press:
Special-education programs draw from district M&O levy dollars

By Neil Pierson

Like her fellow administrators around the Issaquah School District, Michelle Caponigro is concerned about providing resources for her special-education students.

For Caponigro, the principal at Pine Lake Middle School, that means having teachers in two learning resource centers — an LRC I class for students with specific learning disabilities who spend much of their day in a general classroom setting and an LRC II class for students with “significant challenges” who are more difficult to manage.

Of Pine Lake’s 847 students, about 60 are served by a special-education program, Caponigro said. There are three full-time LRC teachers at the school, a fraction of its certificated teaching staff of 40.


Jan 072014

Issaquah Press:
Three school levy proposals are headed toward voters

By Neil Pierson

Voters will have the chance to approve or deny three levy proposals the Issaquah School District is placing on the Feb. 11 ballot.

The district is seeking the renewal of its existing maintenance and operations levy, which provides a large chunk of employee salaries not covered by the state.

The district is also asking for a one-year, $1.7 million transportation levy, and a four-year, $52 million capital levy aimed at improving technology and making key repairs to facilities.


Jan 022014

Newcastle News:
Three school levy proposals are headed toward voters

By Neil Pierson

Newcastle voters will have the chance to vote on three levy proposals the Issaquah School District is placing on the Feb. 11 ballot.

The district is seeking the renewal of its existing maintenance and operations levy, which provides a large chunk of employee salaries not covered by the state.

The district is also asking for a one-year, $1.7 million transportation levy, and a four-year, $52 million capital levy aimed at improving technology and key repairs to facilities.