The Issaquah School Board tonight unanimously voted to hire associate superintendent Ron Thiele to succeed outgoing superintendent Steve Rasmussen when he retires from the district on June 30.
“Ron has the proven track record and positive relationships to seamlessly continue the major initiatives that we have in place,” said board president Brian Deagle. “At the same time, he cares deeply about this district, and he wants to pursue ideas and partnerships that continue to challenge us to impart to our students the education, skills, and experience that will set them up for success throughout their lives.”
The action authorized the school board to begin contract negotiations with Thiele, who will officially be hired once the board approves the contract at an upcoming business meeting.
The Feb. 13 meeting was the first time the board discussed next steps in the process to replacement Rasmussen since he announced his departure in January. Last month, Thiele informed the board of his intention to apply, and the board reviewed in executive sessions both his performance as a public employee and his qualifications as an applicant for the position of superintendent. This evening, board members discussed their range of succession options, including hiring a national search firm. They ultimately decided that the best candidate was right in their own administration.
“It takes time for a person to get to know the district, to develop relationships, to get to know the ins and outs of how things work,” said board member Suzanne Weaver. “And I don’t know if we can afford that right now when we need to sustain momentum in our initiatives.” She further listed characteristics that exemplify a good leader, which Thiele shows daily: honesty, integrity, loyalty, ethicalness, a passion for public education, and great communication skills.
Thiele also has a history of positive relationships with staff, students, community members, and organizations such as the PTSA, and that allows him to collaboratively forge ahead with new projects, according to board member Anne Moore.
“We grilled Ron for quite some time, and I think when we talk about leadership, Ron has had his hand in every single piece of what’s been happening in our district,” said board member Marnie Maraldo. While she initially thought that Thiele’s deep understanding of district “bureaucracy” might cause resistance to change, she’s now convinced the opposite is true. “He wants to use his knowledge to move the whole system forward.” He has new ideas, and he is open to new ideas, she added.
Thiele has almost 25 years of educator experience, eight of which were as a classroom teacher before becoming an administrative leader. He came to the Issaquah School District in 2001 as principal of Issaquah Middle School. He became executive director of elementary and middle school education in 2004 and transitioned to 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.
“I am humbled, and I want to thank the board for this opportunity, as well as the entire Issaquah education community for its support over the past twelve years,” Thiele said. “I am excited to work together to create and implement a vision that builds on our outstanding record of achievement while continuing to pursue smart innovation.”
Thiele said he will set spring meeting dates at schools so that he can have conversations with students, staff, parents, and community members in his new capacity.