Issaquah School District hires new superintendent

February 13, 2013

By Lillian O'Rorke

New: Feb. 13, 10:27 p.m.

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.

“Thank you very much. That was a little bit strange and surreal for me,” said Thiele. 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.”

Tonight 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 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,” said board member Suzanne Weaver. There are a lot of things already going on right now 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.”

“Ron has had his hand in every single piece of everything,” said Marnie Maraldo, member of the board. “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 earlier this 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 in International Studies from the University of Washington and his teaching and principal certification and master’s 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, March 13.

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