The second of two candidates for Issaquah school superintendent met with teachers, staff, parents and community members during an evening...

Share story

The second of two candidates for Issaquah school superintendent met with teachers, staff, parents and community members during an evening community meeting Wednesday.

Steve Rasmussen, superintendent of Franklin Pierce School District, answered questions and discussed his qualifications and background as an educator. Among Rasmussen’s accomplishments was being named state Superintendent of the Year and a finalist for National Superintendent of the Year in 2002.

He began his career in education as an agriculture teacher at Enumclaw High School, from 1973 to 1978. He has 18 years of superintendent experience, beginning in the Deer Park School District in Spokane County in 1989. His goal at Franklin Pierce is to have every graduate prepared to succeed in postsecondary education. He has focused on math achievement and implementing learning communities to change the culture of schools.

Rasmussen, 56, of Parkland, Pierce County, is one of two candidates the Issaquah School Board is considering to replace Superintendent Janet Barry, who retires in June. Gary Cohn, superintendent in Port Angeles, spoke with community members Tuesday.

Many of the several dozen people who attended Wednesday evening’s meeting with Rasmussen said afterward they would be happy with either candidate.

“Both are articulate and are obviously well-read in leadership, and I get the sense both would be collaborative,” said Marianne Kersten, PTA president for Issaquah High. “It will be sad” that the district can hire only one of them, she said.

Other people, such as Bill Werner, an Issaquah Chamber of Commerce member involved with education issues, said Rasmussen seemed more personable and eager to reach out to parents.

During Rasmussen’s 15-year tenure overseeing Franklin Pierce, scores on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) have increased by more than 30 points. However, the district’s overall WASL scores lag behind Issaquah’s. For instance, in the 2005-06 school year, 65 percent of Franklin Pierce’s 10th-graders passed reading, while nearly 94 percent of 10th-graders passed reading in Issaquah.

Rasmussen is known for his strong work ethic, said Mark Baumgarten, president of the Franklin Pierce School Board. He’s also friendly and often gives accolades when they are deserved, Baumgarten said.

“But he’s not one to keep his head in the sand,” Baumgarten said. “He can have tough conversations with folks.”

Rasmussen is good at allowing others to use their expertise to get the job done, said Frank Hewins, assistant superintendent for Franklin Pierce, who has worked with Rasmussen for 15 years.

“When Steve came to this district, it was on the ropes financially,” Hewins said. “Within a year, he had it up and stable and functioning. He’s able to maximize the tight budget we have without minimizing the instructional programs.”

Rachel Tuinstra: 206-515-5637