Issaquah hires from within for new superintendent

February 28, 2013

By Lillian ORorke

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It’s been a little more than a month since the Issaquah School District found out it needed to go shopping for a new superintendent but it’s already found one: Ron Thiele.

The school board unanimously voted Feb. 13 to hire the district’s associate superintendent to succeed outgoing Superintendent Steve Rasmussen when he retires June 30.

Ron Thiele

Ron Thiele

“Thank you very much. That was a little bit strange and surreal for me,” Thiele said. He had been sitting in the school board meeting, he later explained, wondering if his job application was about to be publicly rejected or accepted. “I am truly humbled by an amazing opportunity that you are providing me with and the confidence you are showing in me, and I am really appreciative.”

It was the first time the board discussed replacing Rasmussen since he announced his departure Jan. 9. After Thiele threw his hat in the ring, the school board gathered in two executive sessions to review his job application. At one time during those meetings, Thiele was invited in to answer questions from the board. At the Feb. 13 public meeting, board members talked about how their hiring options including contracting with a national search firm, as they did six years ago before hiring Rasmussen. Ultimately, they said, their best candidate was right here.

“When you bring someone in from the outside, even if they are tremendously qualified, you lose a step,” board member Suzanne Weaver said.

There are a lot of things already going on in the district, she explained, like the new teacher/principal evaluations, developing new assessments and preparing for the new common core standards.

“We can’t afford a learning curve right now,” she said.

“Ron has had his hand in every single piece of everything,” board member Marnie Maraldo said. “I think it’s through his leadership that we have a team of teachers that are embracing this (the teacher/principal evaluation) … it is one of those big course changers in education.”

Thiele, who celebrated his 50th birthday this past fall, started out as a teacher 25 years ago. After eight years in the classroom, he made the transition to the administrative side of education. In 2001, Thiele became the principal of Issaquah Middle School. Three years later, he became executive director of elementary and middle school education before taking on his current role of associate superintendent in 2008.

He received a bachelor’s degree in international studies from the University of Washington, and his teaching and principal certification and master’s degree in school administration from Seattle Pacific University. In 2008, he earned his Washington State Superintendent Certificate.

The school board will now begin contract negotiations with Thiele, who will officially be hired once the board approves the contract. That vote could come as soon as the next school board meeting, on March 13.


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