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Year-end Video Message from the Superintendent

Posted by Devin Felix on June 22, 2020

In this video, ISD Superintendent Ron Thiele speaks about several important topics at the close of the 2019-20 school year, including the COVID-19 pandemic, online learning, nationwide and local efforts to defeat racism, and planning for the start of the 2020-21 school year. 

Below is a transcript of the message:

Hello, I'm Ron Thiele Superintendent of the Issaquah School District.

It's been three months since my last video message and a lot has happened since the ordered closure of our school buildings back in March.

Our students, staff and parents have had to face the challenge of adapting to an at-home learning model. Many of us have felt the isolation of staying at home to help keep others healthy. Others in our community have had to face the challenge of going to work during a pandemic so they can continue to provide essential services for all of us. We have all been impacted by this virus. 

Also, I have recently been moved by the activism taking place in our nation and our community to confront racism and injustice against Black people throughout our history and in our society today. I am keenly aware of the role that public education must play in eliminating systemic and institutional racism. Black lives matter, and we are committed to eliminating racism and creating a more equitable school system for our students of color. 

As the 2019-20 school year comes to a close, I want to acknowledge and congratulate our graduating seniors. You are the historic class of 2020, and while the virus robbed you of many of the traditional events that come with graduating high school you will have quite the story to tell your future children and grandchildren about what it was like during the 2020 pandemic to be a senior in high school. You have persevered through hardships, demonstrated strength and kindness, and I want you all to know that on behalf of our School Board and the entire ISD staff we congratulate you on a job well done, we are proud of you, and wish you all the very best as you embrace the challenges and opportunities ahead. 

I recognize that the past three months have been difficult for many, with Remote Teaching and At Home Learning. Teachers have been asked to completely change their traditional practices, families have found themselves in an expanded role as teacher and tech support, and our students have lost access to clubs, activities, sports teams, libraries and so many of the fun celebratory activities of a normal school year. 

We all miss one another and look forward to a time when we can come together again in our schools, on our fields, gyms and stadiums.

These past few months have also brought out a lot of good in our students and community. ISD students have been busy learning remotely, but also being community contributors, leading fund raising campaigns to support non-profits, tutoring other students, supporting their families while we all learn to work and do school from home. I have been inspired by so many of the stories I have heard about ISD students and families stepping up in support of others during this pandemic.

I have tremendous confidence in this community and our ability to weather this COVID storm. 

My staff and I are now busy planning for the coming school year. Please know that we all want school to resume in our buildings in as normal a manner as can safely happen. Having said that, as we better understand the requirements and guidelines from OSPI and the Department of Health, and as we monitor the impact of COVID19 in our community, I am left with the feeling that school will have to look different in the fall. How different is the question every school leader, health agency, OSPI and other State official is trying to figure out. 

I want to thank all the staff and community members who participated in our ThoughtExchange engagement on Distance Learning and our reopening of schools surveys. The information we learned from these processes and from all the other input we have received have helped us determine improvements needed in our Distance Learning approach and how we might plan for school this fall. Though we don't have the specifics of what school will look like, it's likely that distance learning will have to continue to play some role in our approach to teaching and learning. 

Please continue to pay attention to ISD messages throughout the summer as we may need to administer additional surveys as conditions in the environment change. 

We continue to talk and collaborate with all of our employee groups and labor unions on strategies and protocols that we can implement to help keep our students and staff safe and healthy. I am so appreciative of their willingness to think creatively as we tackle some very challenging issues.

Finally, I just want to say while we all have a strong desire to return to the good old days of traditional brick and mortar teaching and learning, with all the activities and supports that system provides, we know things will likely look and feel very different this next school year, but I have tremendous faith in this community. We truly are “All in this Together” and with grace, creativity, perseverance and kindness we will not only get through this time in our history, we will continue to learn, grow and thrive, as we have always done in the Issaquah School District.

I hope you all have a wonderful summer, get some time away from screens and take the opportunity to enjoy our beautiful Pacific Northwest environment. One thing I’m looking forward to is the opportunity to finally get a haircut! Stay safe and healthy, everyone!

Thank you.