City celebrates completion of parkway expansion project

July 3, 2009

By Jim Feehan and David Hayes
The completion of Coal Creek Parkway this month marks a three-phase, eight-year journey. The city’s largest Public Works project relieves the bottleneck through Newcastle along the regional thoroughfare that connects Renton and Bellevue by widening Coal Creek Parkway from two lanes to four lanes from Newcastle Way to the Southeast 95th Way.
Later this month, various local, state and federal officials will return to Coal Creek Parkway to commemorate the completion of the project. The ceremony is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. July 16.
“I feel great pride in the completion of Coal Creek Parkway improvements,” said City Councilwoman Jean Garber, who was at the initial ribbon cutting ceremony six years ago. “It shows that with a commitment on the part of the council and staff, Newcastle’s limited resources can be leveraged to achieve a monumental outcome.
“I hope residents who walk, bike, or drive this scenic roadway share the pride I feel. To me, the red bridge is a symbol of what we can accomplish when we all work together.”
First plans face hurdles
City officials wanted to widen the parkway since Newcastle incorporated in 1994. The first step 10 years ago was approving a six-year Transportation Improvement Plan that included the following estimates:
q Phase one — $11.8 million for widening, pedestrian and bicycle accommodations, signals, lighting, median and transit facilities, from Southeast 84th Place to Southeast 72nd Place.
q Phase two — $19.4 million for similar projects from Southeast 95th Street to Southeast 84th Place.
Construction was slated to start in summer 2000, with phase one completed in 2003.
The first hurdle to the project came in 2000, when 11 homeowners refused to sell their properties along the western edge of the parkway project. They claimed the city’s representative either didn’t negotiate in good faith or underbid what their properties were actually worth. After 10 other homeowners agreed to sell, the City Council voted Feb. 15, 2000, to condemn the 11 properties of holdout homeowners.
The project hit its second hurdle when city officials decided to delay the start until spring 2001 after experiencing issues with permits, property acquisitions and funding.
City officials negotiated with the property owners, needing a court order to acquire the final property. That cleared the way for bids to go out, and city officials approved a $5.767 million contract to Marshbank Construction, of Lake Stevens. Groundbreaking was finally kicked off March 16, 2002.
The first phase of the project widened the parkway from two lanes to four between Newcastle Way to the entrance of the Olympus neighborhood and Lake Boren Park at Southeast 84th Street. Improvements included a median, left turn lanes, additional traffic signals, bicycle lanes and sidewalks.
Funding becomes an issue
As city officials searched for additional sources of funding to meet growing costs for phases two and three, the City Council considered dropping the later phases if that search was not successful. Another $1 million injection from the county transportation budget kept plans for phase two alive.
Cost overruns, including the need to blast apart a rockslide, drove the cost of phase one up to $14.4 million.
Each member of the City Council, as well as several Planning Commission members and city staff were on hand to celebrate the opening of the first phase of the project during a November 2003 ribbon cutting ceremony. Following speeches from city and county representatives, a group of council members and children paraded up Coal Creek Parkway for a few blocks in vintage cars. Phase one opened to traffic Nov. 8, 2003.
Two years later, the city received an $11.3 million grant from the state Transportation Improvement Board for the completion of phases two and three.
Transportation projects in the state move forward with the help of competitive state grants awarded by the board, which was created by the Legislature to foster state investments in local projects.
Engineering for phases two and three were about 60 percent complete when the grant was announced. Up to that point, the board had invested $25 million in five earlier stages of Coal Creek Parkway, stretching from Interstate 405 in Bellevue, through Newcastle and south to state Route 900 in the Renton Highlands.
In February 2006, design elements for the final two phases of the parkway were unanimously approved by the City Council. They included plans for sidewalks, realigning Southeast 89th Place with Coal Creek Parkway and the design for the May Creek Bridge, with sidewalks on both sides and a center meridian. The design called for the bridge to be topped with several arches reminiscent of the original May Creek Railroad trestle in contemporary form. The trusses that run the length of the bridge are painted brick red.
‘Bold action paid off’
Stevan Gorcester, the executive director of the state Transportation Improvement Board, applauded the city’s efforts to secure funding for the parkway and tackling such a large Public Works project.
“I am thrilled to see the successful completion of this project,” Gorcester said. “The city took on a big project and they assumed some risk. Sometimes, you have to take bold action and that bold action paid off.”
Coal Creek Parkway is a major arterial paralleling Interstate 405 and will grow more important in the coming months as the state undertakes a major upgrade to I-405, he said.
Construction of the final mile of the Coal Creek Parkway project began in September 2007, widening the parkway from Southeast 84th Street to Southeast 95th Way and replacing the narrow two-lane May Creek Bridge, which was built in 1951. The parkway remained open during the past 22 months as crews demolished the old bridge, widened the roadway, added bike lanes and sidewalks and built a retaining wall north of the Highlands entrance to the intersection of Southeast 89th Place.
The project came in under budget and on time. In the waning hours of this year’s session, the Legislature came through with $3 million for the project.
Maiya Andrews, the city’s Public Works director, said the city is thankful for its funding partners and the trust they placed in Newcastle spending their money wisely.
The parkway improvements will help commuters who opt to bypass I-405, but it also offers amenities to pedestrians and bicyclists, Andrews said.
“This is something we can look back at and be proud of,” she said.
The May Creek Bridge, open to traffic May 26, features wider sidewalks. By Greg Farrar

The May Creek Bridge, open to traffic May 26, features wider sidewalks. By Greg Farrar

The completion of Coal Creek Parkway this month marks a three-phase, eight-year journey. The city’s largest Public Works project relieves the bottleneck through Newcastle along the regional thoroughfare that connects Renton and Bellevue by widening Coal Creek Parkway from two lanes to four lanes from Newcastle Way to the Southeast 95th Way. Read more

Skateboard park open house meeting is July 14

July 3, 2009

The city is hosting an open house regarding the proposed temporary skate park at Renton Academy from 6-7:30 p.m. July 14 at Renton Academy, 7100 116th Way S.E.
This is an informational meeting to go over proposed equipment, layout and to talk with nearby residents and skateboard enthusiasts.
Call 649-4444, ext. 106, for more information.

The city is hosting an open house regarding the proposed temporary skate park at Renton Academy from 6-7:30 p.m. July 14 at Renton Academy, 7100 116th Way S.E. Read more

Residents go to the streets for National Night Out

July 3, 2009

Area residents will take to the streets Aug. 4 to meet with neighbors and police during the annual National Night Out Against Crime.
Neighbors will gather for potlucks and other social events. Organizers said they hope the event will foster greater cooperation in reporting suspicious activity in Newcastle neighborhoods.
City Communications Manager Doug Alder said relationships between residents provided a solid foundation for National Night Out.
“Newcastle’s neighborhoods are already very tight-knit, and we believe this event will help bring neighbors even closer,” Alder wrote in an e-mail. “It also sends a strong message that crime won’t be tolerated in our city.”
Neighborhood organizers said the annual event would provide a good opportunity for residents to get to know one another over hamburgers and hot dogs.
“This is an opportunity to get-together with your neighbors,” said Scott Eklund, of the Hazelwood Community Association. “Knowing your neighbors can be a real asset in crime prevention.”
The Hazelwood Community Association will hold its National Night Out event at Donegal Park, 7319 125th Ave. S.E.  Neighbors are encouraged to bring their own food, but a grill will be provided for the event, he said.
“So, bring your hot dogs and burgers and get to know your neighbors,” he said.
Police Chief Melinda Irvine said National Night Out is “great because neighbors get to know their neighbors.”
Irvine said residents who know their neighbors are more likely to check up on one another and call police if they notice suspicious police or vehicles in their neighborhood.
The police chief said her officers plan to drive through Newcastle neighborhoods and talk with National Night Out participants.
The event is held the first Tuesday of each August. The event started in 1984 and has grown to involve more than 34 million people from 10,000 communities, according to the National Association of Town Watch, a nonprofit based in Wynnewood, Pa.
The Reserve neighborhood will also host a block party on National Night Out, beginning at 7 p.m. at the end of the 150th Place Southeast cul-de-sac.
The event is a good example of strengthening communities, said Julie Varon, who is organizing the event in the Reserve.
“With our busy lives, we’re lucky if we get to know our neighbors,” she said. “The idea is that we need to watch out for one another and getting to know one another is a good first step.”
Alder said city officials are not trying to coordinate individual parties, but they do want to get more neighborhoods interested and get police to every party that is held.
“Newcastle police went to a couple that were held last year and talked to residents about any concerns they have, crime in the neighborhood and what they can do about it,” he said. “Officers will be available this year to go around to each party and do the same thing.”

Area residents will take to the streets Aug. 4 to meet with neighbors and police during the annual National Night Out Against Crime.

Neighbors will gather for potlucks and other social events. Organizers said they hope the event will foster greater cooperation in reporting suspicious activity in Newcastle neighborhoods. Read more

ZIP code survey shows delivery, tax problems

July 3, 2009

By Jim Feehan
A recent survey conducted by the city reveals residents overwhelmingly want a unique ZIP code and say it would better establish the city’s identity.
About 400 people participated in the survey last month. Ninety-eight percent of the respondents answered yes when asked if they support the city’s efforts to acquire its own ZIP code; 95 percent said it would better establish the city’s identity.
Since the city incorporated in 1994, the U.S. Postal Service has twice denied it its own ZIP code. Newcastle has two ZIP codes that are assigned to Renton — 98056 and 98059.
“This is a more thorough and detailed presentation we will be presenting to the Postal Service,” said City Manager John Starbard. “This is not about vanity. This is complicating people’s lives.”
The survey also asked residents to list problems associated with shared ZIP codes. Fifty-two percent of the respondents said they had delayed or misdelivered packages.
“This should be important to the post office, because they’re always concerned about the accurate and speedy delivery of mail,” said Doug Alder, city spokesman. “When more than half of the people in the survey had package and letter delivery problems, that says a lot.”
About 50 percent of respondents said they had difficulty with taxi or airport services; 29 percent discovered they were paying Renton utility tax; 91 percent said that when doing business by phone, merchants said they lived in Renton; and 45 percent said they need to change their home shopping or home delivery routine.
City officials say some computers don’t recognize Newcastle addresses and that the city is losing sales tax revenue to Renton. When out-of-town or out-of-state deliveries are shipped to Newcastle, many companies use only the five-digit ZIP codes to forward sales tax dollars instead of using the complete street address.
Newcastle will present its case for a unique ZIP code to the Seattle office later this month, Alder said. If the Seattle office rejects the request, the city can appeal to the federal level.
“Hopefully, we’ll get it this time,” he said.
A recent survey conducted by the city reveals residents overwhelmingly want a unique ZIP code and say it would better establish the city’s identity. Read more

Issaquah School District gets recognition from state audit

July 3, 2009

By Chantelle Lusebrink
For the seventh year in a row, Issaquah School District officials received recognition from the Washington State Auditor’s Office for completely adhering to state and federal regulations.
“I think the audit came out well,” said Jacob Kuper, chief executive of finance and operations for the district. “Anytime we have a clean audit with no findings, it is good news for the district and the taxpayers as well.”
District officials received state auditor’s office officials’ findings in May. The audit looked at financial accountings from Sept. 1, 2007, to Aug. 31, 2008.
The audits are a routine inspection conducted by the state auditor’s office every year for every public entity.
“Anytime an outside party holds us to a standard, federal, state and local standards, it is a good thing,” Kuper said. “It helps ensure the property systems are in place for compliance.”
The audits measure general accountability and look at the district’s protection and safeguarding of public resources. It included cash receipting and revenues, payroll expenditures and assessment of fines and damages. It also looked at expenditures and protection of assets, like laptops and classroom materials.
The accountability audit also looked into compliance with state and local regulations, such as conflict of interest laws, the Open Public Meetings Act, competitive bidding compliance, contracts, student enrollment and transportation reporting.
If there are findings by officials with the auditor’s office, district officials correct them, Kuper said.
The last time district officials received any correction from the auditor’s office was in a management letter in 2006 for the 2006-07 school year.
That letter asked them to alter their reporting of certain district transportation routes. Those problems were corrected while auditors were still in the building.
For the seventh year in a row, Issaquah School District officials received recognition from the Washington State Auditor’s Office for completely adhering to state and federal regulations.
Read more

Letters to the editor

July 3, 2009

Congratulations, city staff,                  on parkway completion
While it is customary for newspapers to have opinionated editorial pages, we in Newcastle are provided with the biased viewpoint of Jim Feehan in most articles, as well. The most recent example is the “controversy” (stirred up by the Talk of the Town feature in Newcastle News) over the city spending $5,000 to celebrate the successful completion of the $42 million Coal Creek Parkway project.
City staff, in objective fact, has done an outstanding job in securing funding from county, state and federal sources and in managing the project in an on-time and under-budget manner.
As a career human resources leader, I understand the need to celebrate successes in life, including at the workplace, as a way of lifting morale. When employees have their efforts and successes recognized, they feel more committed to their employer and their jobs, while organizations experience increased employee engagement and lower turnover. I will also add that $5,000 represents .012 percent (that’s roughly 1/8,000) of the $42 million project’s total costs.
If Newcastle News is unwilling to congratulate our outstanding city staff for a job well done, I will happily say thank you to all involved in the Coal Creek Parkway project for an outstanding job.
Andrew Shelton
Newcastle
Parkway party should be on weekend
At first, I thought $5,000 is a small amount to spend to celebrate the end of such a substantial road project that has been a stressor to all the city’s residents.
Then, I reread the article and went to put the date in my calendar and was dumbfounded. This party is on Thursday, July 16, at 1:30 p.m. This is the only city-sponsored summer event that I have seen scheduled in the middle of a weekday.
Typically, such events are in the evening or on the weekend. This date and time is causing me to wonder if it is a “company picnic” in disguise. How many people are going to be able to attend a weekday afternoon event, besides the construction workers on the project and the city representatives?
In fact, in the article, “$5,000 approved for Coal Creek Parkway party” (June 5 Newcastle News), all of the praise is for the city staff and state Department of Transportation’s hard work on this project.
I am a stay-at-home mom residing in this city and I cannot attend. If this were truly for the residents, I believe, it would be on a Saturday.
In this economic climate, many local companies are canceling their company picnics and a city picnic would be a taxpayer-provided relief and alternative. If it is indeed a company picnic, then it should be cancelled. Since it is on a Thursday, I doubt that it is truly intended for the city’s residents, also known as those paying for the party.
Crystal Amend
Newcastle
Party ‘horrendous waste of taxpayer monies’
I have spoken to no one in the past few weeks that agrees with spending taxpayer dollars for a celebration of the parkway opening.
This is a major recession and a horrendous waste of taxpayer monies. I have neighbors who have lost their jobs that live in this city. Let’s not waste theirs and everyone else’s tax dollars for a celebration of the parkway.
I can see an announcement and comments at Lake Boren Park on band or movie night. Let’s save our tax dollars if we can!
Let’s stop this city spending now.
Mike Connell
Newcastle
Parkway party         expenditure questioned
I could not believe what I read in the last Newcastle News. I don’t see how any of you can even think of a party without tremendous guilt.
The money you will be using is from our taxes, which are too high anyway. You are always complaining that there isn’t enough money for this or that, and yet you seem to have $5,000 to throw away. If you have that much extra money, how about returning it to we who live in Newcastle?
I agree with a couple of people whose photo was in the paper and saying with the economy the way it is to donate the money to a food bank in the honor of the freeway or to charities. To me, with so many hurting right now, and there are those in Newcastle, I’m sure throwing away $5,000 is not a wise decision.
There may be a lot of rich folks who live here, but we are not among them and neither are my neighbors. We’ve been here for more than 40 years and are now retired, and we are not happy about being always told we have to pay more money to you for something.
As far as this “405 of Coal Creek” goes, I am not celebrating. I can’t use this road in the early morning hours going north or in the early evening hours going south, because the traffic is bumper to bumper for miles and miles. And these people don’t even live in Newcastle or pay taxes here. Yet, I’m the taxpayer and can’t even use the road.
Why don’t you people figure out ways to get businesses in here so we can really be a city someone wants to shop in. How about a Walmart? That would bring in a lot of tax revenue.
Also, how about more police grabbing speeders on this new freeway? I go the speed limit and the other cars go past me like I’m standing still. You could probably take in a lot of revenue just from speeders, if you police the area more often.
Carrol R. Merrell
Newcastle

Congratulations, city staff, on parkway completion

While it is customary for newspapers to have opinionated editorial pages, we in Newcastle are provided with the biased viewpoint of Jim Feehan in most articles, as well. The most recent example is the “controversy” (stirred up by the Talk of the Town feature in Newcastle News) over the city spending $5,000 to celebrate the successful completion of the $42 million Coal Creek Parkway project. Read more

Editorial: Completed parkway is source of pride

July 3, 2009

Riddle: When is a bridge and a road more than just a bridge and a road?
Answer: When the bridge and road is a piece of art, a source of community pride, a grand entrance to a small city — when it is part of the Coal Creek Parkway in Newcastle.
The parkway has been a source of grumbling for years. There was the $40 million cost, the extravagance to make it a showpiece and, of course, the traffic slow downs during construction. But baby, take a look at it now!
The cost to the city was less than expected with the late arrival of a $3 million grant, thanks to careful city oversight and financial support from other government funds and grants. The construction is over and traffic will move through the corridor without the diversion of traffic cones, flaggers and equipment.
And it is beautiful. The brick-red arches and railings of the bridge over May Creek, the careful attention to the design of the retaining walls, the wide sidewalks from city center to Lake Boren, and the graceful landscaping are already being talked about — with pride by Newcastle residents and with awe by visitors passing through.
But the Coal Creek Parkway is something more. It is a vision of what the city can become. The parkway has set a design standard that leaves us eager to see more. Architects who are designing Newcastle’s future commercial and residential core need only look to the parkway for inspiration and an understanding of what the new Newcastle can and should be.
The city staff, City Council members and planning commissioners should take a bow. Amid controversy during the project, they held tight to a vision they shared — and do share. The conversations to get us to this point have not always been amiable, but they have all been passionate about Newcastle and its future.
Hats off to the contractors and their crews who brought the project in under budget, to the citizens and drivers who put up with construction for seven long years, to the King County Council and 41st District state legislators who helped secure funding.

Riddle: When is a bridge and a road more than just a bridge and a road?

Answer: When the bridge and road is a piece of art, a source of community pride, a grand entrance to a small city — when it is part of the Coal Creek Parkway in Newcastle. Read more

Fewer bookings at county jail pushes extension of jail contracts to Newcastle and other cities

July 3, 2009

By Jim Feehan
King County is extending its deadline for taking misdemeanor inmates from Newcastle and 35 other cities in the Seattle area beyond a previously imposed cutoff of Dec. 31, 2012.
Sentencing alternatives other than jail and a 25-percent drop in bookings by Seattle police, its biggest users of jail space at the downtown jail and its Regional Justice Center in Kent, led county officials to extend the deadline.
“This drop in jail use gives us an opportunity to take a more collaborative and regional approach in examining options for future jail space needs,” Interim King County Executive Kurt Triplett said in a news release. “Jails are very expensive and it is important that we make the most cost-effective decision for the region.”
Misdemeanor inmates typically serve sentences of a year or less, for such crimes as shoplifting and drunken driving. The county’s two jails will continue lodging felony inmates.
City and county officials have been in negotiations since August 2008 about a possible extension of the 2012 deadline, said Newcastle Mayor Ben Varon, a member of the Jail Oversight Assembly, made up of elected officials from each of the contract cites collaborating on jail issues.
The decision will give Newcastle and other cities more time to craft a long-term solution, he said.
All cities in the county, with the exception of Enumclaw, Kent and Milton, contract with King County for jail space. The contract cities have formed two groups, one looking to construct a jail in the south part of the county and the other looking at a Seattle or north county location for a jail. Each facility would need approximately 640 inmate beds.
“There’s not a lot of inmate demand from Newcastle,” Varon said. “Of the two groups we sit right in the middle between the group looking to build a jail in the south part of the county and the other looking to build north. I’m not sure where we sit in the equation.”
King County has combined space for 3,039 inmates at its jails in downtown Seattle and in Kent.
But Kathy Van Olst, King County’s director of adult and juvenile detention, said that while the jail will have capacity in the next few years, the county should be careful not to get caught short in the future.

King County is extending its deadline for taking misdemeanor inmates from Newcastle and 35 other cities in the Seattle area beyond a previously imposed cutoff of Dec. 31, 2012. Read more

Three candidates vie for council seat 5

July 3, 2009

By Jim Feehan
The city’s election lineup is set and includes a primary election next month for one City Council position.
In addition, after announcing his intent to run for council, veteran sportscaster Tony Ventrella decided not to file for office.
Three people — Larry Betsch, Karin Blakley and Rich Crispo — will run in the Aug. 8 primary for position 5 on the council. The top two candidates advance to the Nov. 3 general election.
Larry Betsch
Larry Betsch retired after a career with the Boeing Co. and IBM, where he worked in a diverse number of management disciplines, including financial control, proposal development and project management. Betsch is a member of the Newcastle Planning Commission, a mentor in the Renton schools at Highlands Elementary School, and a member of the Newcastle Chamber of Commerce.
He lives with his wife and son in the China Creek neighborhood, where he enjoys hiking, biking and golf opportunities in the community.
“The people who lead us in the future will make crucial decisions, which will impact us all,” Betsch said. “I believe good government should listen and respond to the needs of our families, neighborhoods, and our current and future business partners, with effective communication and strong leadership.
“This will ensure the foundation this city was built on will remain vital and strong,” he said. “We need to work together to improve our neighborhoods by communicating with our residents and dealing with their issues.”
Karin Blakley
Karin Blakley is a district manager for the Bellevue office of Waddell & Reed, an investment management and financial planning company. Prior to that, Blakley worked in advertising, sales and management positions. In 1999, she ran for City Council and lost to incumbent Pam Lee by 57 votes.
Blakley said her experience and background could help the city in addressing its budget woes.
“Our key revenue sources are down significantly,” she said. “This situation creates a sizable hole in our current budget, which means thoughtful analysis and cost trimming needs to occur. For 25 years, I’ve dealt with the budgets and revenue challenges of various organizations and businesses. This is a skill set that will be useful in working through the situation we presently face.”
Blakley said she would start a “Buy Newcastle” initiative to support businesses and encourage residents to buy local. Obtaining a unique ZIP code for Newcastle will also be a focus to ensure that sales tax revenues are properly calculated, she said.
Rich Crispo
Rich Crispo spent 35 years working in the aerospace industry with four different companies. He retired from the Boeing Co. in 2006 after 28 years as chief information officer for its largest single contract, future combat systems for the Army. He was responsible for a $100 million annual budget.
Crispo said he decided to run mainly because he disagrees with decisions made by the council majority of Ben Varon, Dan Hubbell, Sonny Putter and Jean Garber.
“On significant issues, the council is split 4-3 in favor of an expanded, dense downtown,” he said. “There would be five-story, multiuse buildings lining our one intersection. There is little, or no, attention to our bedroom characteristics — open space, trails or services that treat everyday needs — that make Newcastle a great place to live.”
He said the environment at council meetings is hostile to interested residents and somewhat abusive to councilors in the minority.
“Let’s change the city vision to one that resembles why we choose to live here, and help create an environment that will entice more residents to become involved,” he said.
Hubbell, current position 5 councilman and deputy mayor, isn’t running again. He was elected to the council in 2005, defeating Steve Buri.
“After eight years of service, it’s time for me to move on,” Hubbell said of his four years on the council and four prior years on the city’s Planning Commission.
All of the city’s council seats are at-large positions, meaning none of the people on the council represent a specific neighborhood.

The city’s election lineup is set and includes a primary election next month for one City Council position.

In addition, after announcing his intent to run for council, veteran sportscaster Tony Ventrella decided not to file for office. Read more

Issaquah’s math curriculum adoption is put on hold

July 3, 2009

By Chantelle Lusebrink
After community concern and lack of clarity at the state level, Issaquah School District Superintendent Steve Rasmussen told school board members June 24 that he had decided to delay the district’s high school math adoption for one year.
“The teachers on the adoption committee have done thorough, exceptional work and we don’t want to lose that. But it is prudent to wait for the dust to settle,” he said.
Teachers will continue to use the current math program, College Prep Mathematics, when students come back to class in the fall, said Patrick Murphy, executive director of secondary education.
“Come fall 2009, school will happen. Our expectations have not gone down and our community’s expectations have not gone down,” said Ron Thiele, associate superintendent. “We will be ready.”
District officials entered into the curriculum adoption process for high school math earlier this year because College Prep had been used since 2002. District curriculum adoptions happen roughly every seven years. In addition, new state high school math standards adopted in 2008 warranted the adoption since College Prep Math wouldn’t align with them.
The district’s Math Adoption Committee — a group consisting of math teachers and curriculum specialists — began meeting in January and February to review several curricula. Those meetings eventually led to a unanimous recommendation to adopt Discovering Mathematics, by Key Curriculum Press, in early May.
During that process, state education organizations, like the State Board of Education, several universities and colleges, as well as the state Superintendent of Public Instruction’s Office, also began researching several possible math programs to align with new standards, and came up with different recommendations.
The state superintendent’s office research led to the recommendation of Holt Mathematics. It is the first time that the state superintendent’s office has only recommended one curriculum instead of several to choose from. It is not mandated that districts use the state recommended curriculum; districts are able to choose what works best for their student population, a May 4 memo from the state superintendent’s office said.
The conflicting information, reports and curricula recommendations sent alarms through parents, many of whom said they weren’t made aware the district was planning to adopt a new high school math curriculum.
Questions surfaced as to the district’s process; whether committee members solicited community feedback about math; conflicting information from educational organizations; and about how math is taught in general throughout the district.
“I want to make clear, at least for me, it was not about the curriculum. I think the teachers, they did a great job and it probably is the right curriculum,” said Kelly Munn, a parent and education advocate. “The issue here is, are we headed in the right direction?
“Patrick (Murphy) has said we have goals outside of good WASL scores and state standards,” she added. “I’d like to know what they are and where we stand.”
“We need to make sure we look holistically at math in this district, not just at the high school, but the elementary, middle school and high school levels,” said Anne Moore, another parent and education advocate.
Board members had the opportunity to ask some of the same questions during a work-study session June 10. They asked teachers and district officials whether a new curriculum adoption would be the right decision.
They also asked why they had chosen Discovering Mathematics over other curricula. In response, the teachers said the lessons, class investigations and materials will make for a more equitable math experience for students across the district, with less variance from class to class. However, teachers did say that when it came down to it, you could have almost any textbook in the classroom, but good quality teachers are what make the difference in how or what students learn.
To help settle issues regarding the state’s curriculum choice, district officials had tried to organize a meeting where state officials with varying opinions would come support their work. State officials declined that request, Murphy said.
“The actions by state over the last few months, rather than being helpful, have actually caused a lot of consternation, and in some instances, have kind of paralyzed districts in their ability to select math materials and their ability to move forward at this point,” he said.
Between now and the beginning of the school year, teachers and district officials will begin looking at ways to help support teachers and students meet state standards with the current curriculum. That will include professional development this summer for high school math teachers, implementing new Internet tools for students and finding new ways to connect with students who are struggling, Thiele said.
After school starts, district officials will begin gathering community and student input and feedback, and teachers will meet again this winter to look at the Discovering Mathematics recommendation and possibly other alternatives.

After community concern and lack of clarity at the state level, Issaquah School District Superintendent Steve Rasmussen told school board members June 24 that he had decided to delay the district’s high school math adoption for one year. Read more

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