Letters to the Editor - July 15, 2013

  • Written by Readers

Hired by Northshore School District 18 years ago as a teacher for the PACE program, I was given freedom to create a unique program making effective use of parent volunteers and offering a challenging and engaging curriculum.

This program offered parents a different choice from what was available in the neighborhood classrooms.  The chance to innovate and create individualized alternative curriculum is one of the reasons that brought me to Northshore.

The main reason I am leaving teaching now is increasing restrictions Northshore’s top administrators have set on which subjects can realistically be taught in the classroom and the increasing limitations on how the required curriculum is taught.   

This year, because of my innovative curriculum, I was one of seven teachers in Washington state honored with the KCTS Golden Apple Award. In reference to the award, KCTS’ website states that my students experienced “an enriched math curriculum that lays a solid foundation for future math learning.”    

How ironic that the same year I was honored for creating and teaching an innovative math program, parents of my students learned that their children were not going to be allowed to experience that program. I based the math program (that came to be called “Bob’s Math”) on the standards of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.    

My classes have consistently showed better scores than the Northshore District average on the WASL and MSP. My students have had the chance to explore math concepts more deeply and at a higher level.  

Upon entering junior high, a high percentage of my students have qualified for honors and double honors math classes.  

For years, this has attracted parents to our choice program creating high demand and wait lists for the program. After years of praise for the alternative curriculum created for my PACE classes, I was ordered to stop teaching “Bob’s Math” in January of 2012.  

The Golden Apple Award statement also praised the program I created for its project-based learning. It said, “Bob engages his students with multi-level projects such as Liquid Toxic Goop and Voyage of Discovery that combine math, science, social studies, art and writing. In Bob’s class, students write book reports, original stories, and poetry.” There simply isn’t time to include these projects in the school year if not given flexibility in how to use adopted texts.

If a teacher follows the District’s guidelines, he or she gives up too much autonomy.  If a teacher follows the District’s guidelines, many subjects are left out because of time constraints ...

This year, in a meeting with parents, administrative staff stated this emphasis on uniformity/losing autonomy is a “challenge to work through” and that it is “scary” to teachers. Saying so is demeaning and angering. I feel more disrespected than challenged. I am more frustrated than scared.  What is a “challenge” and is “scary” is that parents and teachers are just leaving rather than speaking out.  Teachers are leaving without expressing their feelings for fear of retribution from their employer and lack of possibility to teach as substitute teachers.

Parents are dissatisfied and discussing the creation of charter schools, or leaving to attend private schools — all detracting from the potential future success of Northshore Schools.

Politicians, pundits and the public currently bemoan the state of our educational institutions, but district administrators do not allow teachers enough freedom from the Holt Math, Benchmark Reading and Benchmark Writing pacing guides to adequately adapt to individual student’s needs and expand to challenge all.

Additionally the way that Northshore has gone about introducing its most recent curriculum adaptations resulted in unwise loss of teacher autonomy. The constant drumbeat in teacher training sessions is “Fidelity to the Publisher or Curriculum.”

The Northshore Education Association is right when they say that “Northshore’s emphasis on teaching exactly alike without deviating from a set technique or time frame is displacing the qualities that have made Northshore great:  amazing teachers who are encouraged to use their professional judgment and creative talents. We want to make our classrooms exciting for students academically, and to teach life skills, help student find their interests, and realize their full potential.”

I am saddened that the District is seemingly following some educators regarding how the Common Core State Standards are viewed. When the CCSS were first proposed, many educators spoke out about concerns that the end result would be an unfortunate dumbing down of the curriculum.

I don’t feel this has happened per se with the District’s curriculum, but the resulting focus on teaching only the standards means that the District is using the standards as goals rather than as a baseline.

We can all agree that we must strive for all students to meet the minimum, but in no way should we allow that effort to diminish the drive for excellence.   

Northshore top administrators have publically stated that, “there is no place for pockets of excellence” in the Northshore School District and that “teachers should not be allowed to teach to their individual strengths,” but should uniformly teach the curriculum. Instead of seeing the standards as the minimum foundation a child should have at the end of school year while helping as many students as possible to exceed that minimum, the District seems to be satisfied with students mastering those minimum standards as a sign of success.

In closing, I wish to state how blessed I was to have started my career in a district that honored individuality and emphasized excellence. That Northshore School District allowed opportunities for the teachers to create and to truly reach students and challenge them to reach for the highest possible levels.

Unfortunately, I am leaving a Northshore School District that now honors uniformity over innovation and honors a restrictive curriculum over a diverse choice.

The Northshore School District does have a different model it can follow: accept the CCSS as the foundation of our educational structure while letting professional teachers build the walls and “raise the roof.”

Let each and every one choose the colors and vision in their classrooms necessary to reach the full potential of every student, as the students are the real reason we are in education.
Bob Whittemore, via email

At the July 2nd meeting of the Woodinville City Council, they entertained a discussion on three topics pertaining to Council Procedures and Ethics.

One procedural change was to overturn a past council decision that reduced staff overhead for providing council members an automated process to access certain public documents. Planning to reverse that process will again put undue burden on our staff which we all know we’re short of.

The ethics concern was minimal at best — attacking one council member for 15 minutes over a campaign letter. This does not address the overall ethics problems this council suffers from. No mention of the councilman that so openly attacks the mayor from the dais that the council chambers filled with upset citizens. Not included were ethics issues pertaining to zoning issues and which council members should or can vote depending on where they live and what property they own. Our city attorney is an expert in this area, serving as special attorney to the City of Monroe ethics committee that covered exactly these issues. A great resource for a “real” ethics discussion, should council decide to have one, but they didn’t go there.

What this discussion was all about is topic #3 which is a political power grab. A thinly veiled effort by four council members to execute a power grab just prior to an election. To override “Washington State Law” pertaining to dismissing a mayor or deputy mayor. As one council member put it “dismiss them if they don’t agree with the majority.”  They want to force the mayor on how to vote?

Washington state law is very clear. Every two years council appoints a chair and co-chair to run their meetings. That’s it. We call these individuals mayor and deputy mayor but they are peers with the other council members and hold no special powers. One important thing they do provide is a consistent interface for those two years to the organizational bodies our city interfaces with. King County, state of Washington, Sound Cities Partnership,  Puget Sound Regional Council, etc. Our current mayor, Councilmember Bernie Talmas, has done a better job fulfilling this purpose, than any other council member in the history of the city.

Mayor Talmas has made inroads and provided presence for Woodinville in the greater Washington community in ways our city has never benefited from before.

He is the chair of the Eastside Transportation Partnership; a Sound Cities Representative and voting member of the King County Regional Policy Committee; a voting member of the Growth Management Policy Board for the Puget Sound Regional Council; vice chair for the Public Issues Committee for the Sound Cities Association.

The Washington communities at large have embraced Mayor Talmas, providing great benefits for Woodinville. The reason he has been embraced as a leader is due to his background — 30 + years  as a practicing attorney. He is currently admitted to practice law in Washington, California and New York states and in front  of the United States Supreme Court and is a former Army officer.

Yet four council members want to override state law and be able to switch out mayor and deputy mayor positions at any time.
Down the road if there is disagreement will they change out a mayor every week? This is all being done for nothing more than political gain and to try and swing an upcoming election. Where are our council members’ vows to uphold their office to benefit our citizens?

These planned actions are self serving and politically driven.

The Woodinville City Council needs to get back to serving the needs of our city and stop hurting Woodinville with their political shenanigans.
Hank Stecker, Woodinville



Due to space availability, this letter has been published online only.


Early in 2012, a Woodinville City Councilmember lashed out against Mayor Bernie Talmas during a City Council meeting. The following week, he apologized. Mayor Talmas accepted his apology, and the Council moved on to take care of the business that was properly within its realm of responsibilities.


The lashing out, the apology, and the acceptance of the apology all gave us glimpses into the character of the persons involved.


Contrast that to the Council meeting described in the July 9 edition of the Woodinville Weekly. In May, I sent a campaign e-mail to supporters that used harsh language to describe a current Councilmember and former Mayor. The e-mail also introduced a challenger to a Councilmember who has since withdrawn her candidacy. A couple weeks later, I sent out an apology for the harsh language.


The response to my apology was that the two current Councilmembers mentioned in my e-mail, with the former Mayor sitting in the audience, moved the matter into City Hall and have requested changes to City Council ethics and procedures. The requested changes include a procedure for removing the Mayor from office.


My harsh language gave a glimpse into my character –one that I’m not proud of.


My apology gave another glimpse—one that I hope improves the cosmic balance sheet.


But let’s be clear: The Councilmembers who received the apology chose to not accept it, and chose to move the matter into City Hall, and chose to use their elected office and taxpayer money to exact retribution for a personal grievance. These choices give citizens a glimpse into their character.


The concerns about bullying? They refer to a posting on the Woodinville Patch that linked to the last sale of a single parcel of vacant land I’m aware of in one Councilmember’s neighborhood. My post quantified how much ($469,000) she is likely to profit from her vote that allows her to subdivide her land. I’ve also posted several times about the efforts by a former Mayor to enable development of Sammamish Valley agricultural land—and thereby destroy the rural look and feel that is the competitive advantage of Woodinville Wine Country.


Two of our Councilmembers characterize these posts as bullying. I characterize them as public discourse about issues of public policy. If public figures are uncomfortable having their actions scrutinized by the public, they should behave differently. We are accountable for our actions, and that is at it should be.


Woodinville’s citizens have a right to expect the best from their elected officials. I’m sorry for my lapse, I apologize once again for my harsh language, but I am disappointed that my fellow Councilmembers have chosen to use my misbehavior as an excuse to misuse their elected office, abuse the public trust, and waste taxpayer money.


But none of what I’ve said so far addresses the retribution toward the Mayor: Why develop a procedure to remove the Mayor—a procedure that will presumably be used to oust Mayor Talmas? And why now? My original email mentioned the Mayor in passing, but the e-mail was mine and mine alone.


Mayor Talmas has run fair and efficient meetings. He has presided over a Council that has done more in the service of Woodinville’s citizens than any previous Council. He has represented us at regional meetings, has been elected Chair of regional bodies, is poised to rise to the Chairmanship of more, and has been appointed to bodies where appointments are decided on the qualifications of the applicants. He has raised Woodinville’s reputation in the region, and acts as our sentinel and guardian to prevent the imposition of regional projects that are comparable to Brightwater.


And he’s done all that for $8400 a year when he could be earning six figures as an attorney.


There is no reasonable justification for removing Mayor Talmas. He has served Woodinville well. He has shown grace under fire. He has always acted in the best interests of Woodinville’s citizens and local businesses. His integrity, skill and demeanor overshadow those of the Councilmembers who apparently plan to remove him.


Woodinville deserves a City Council that focuses on the needs of its citizens, property owners, and locally owned businesses. We don’t have that today. We have a Council whose majority allows themselves to indulge personal grievances at taxpayer expense. Over the next couple of years, I hope Woodinville develops the collective will to elect a City Council that will take its governance responsibilities seriously.

Susan Boundy-Sanders


Woodinville Water District announces phone system disruption

  • Written by Woodinville Water District

On Friday, July 12, Woodinville Water District will be upgrading its phone system. In the afternoon, starting at approximately 1:30, the main phone number, some fax lines and individual phone extensions will have intermittent service disruptions for up to one hour. 

For emergency calls that may arise during that time frame, customers can call a Woodinville Water District pager at (206) 969-4462 and leave a call-back number. A district representative will call you back.

Letters to the Editor - July 8, 2013

  • Written by Readers

The ground work to move the Northshore School District to a school calendar that includes Instructional Planning and Collaboration Time began a decade ago.  In the next school year, educators will have 95 minutes per week to plan and collaborate, without any loss of instructional time for students. 

This was accomplished by adding back to the school calendar five full days of instruction, and extending each school day by five minutes.

Additionally, the Northshore Education Association has been working for years to bring forth a new semester system for elementary schools and for a more effective teacher evaluation system, both of which will be implemented in the next school year.

These reforms will allow the Northshore School District to continue as a leader in the state. This is exciting because as our community’s teachers, we know that these reforms, all brought forth by teachers from the ground up, will make both the work and learning environment which can’t be separated a better place for students.

During the 2003-2004 school year, the Northshore School District Elementary Design Team, comprised of both teachers and administrators, began studying different early release/late arrival models, school districts both in and out of our state, instructional models in other countries such as Finland, and implications for the configuration of the school day . 

They brought their recommendation forward in the 2005-2006 school year in a formal set of recommendations: buy new curriculum, improve the elementary report card, and implement an early release/late arrival model to allow for greater collaboration between teachers. Once the economy collapsed, all attention turned to maintaining what programs we could.

NSEA began surveying teachers on this topic in 2010, again in 2011, and again in 2013. Every time the results were the same with the majority of NSEA members wanting to go to this model to provide time for planning and collaboration. At our General Membership meeting, by a vote of 76 percent to 24 percent, the teachers of the Northshore Education Association ratified changes to the evaluation system, calendar, and elementary semesters. This change was made to improve the quality of instruction for our students.  We know that when we have time to talk, observe, and learn from each other, our teaching is more effective. 

Our goal is to improve student learning, and this time will allow us to plan better lessons and learn from our colleagues’ best practices.  This time will also allow a better coordinated education program for our students with unique learning needs. By allowing time for teachers to collaborate with each other about specific program modifications needed by these students their unique learning needs will be better addressed.

With all of the changes coming at teachers over the next five years we felt even more strongly that now was the time for this change. These changes include the implementation of the new evaluation system, new Common Core Teaching Standards, new Smarter Balance Student Assessment System, new Graduation Requirements that begin next year, and with the hopeful passage of our bond and levy, the construction of a new high school along with grade reconfiguration for all schools. 

Additionally, as teachers will now be evaluated on their ability to collaborate, it was necessary  to provide time for them to do so. 

The final decision to have the Instructional Planning and Collaboration Time on Wednesdays is one based upon what the education professionals believe is best for the overall academic program. Teachers felt by having this time on Wednesdays it would afford them the opportunity to put into practice the next day some of the best practices they will have discussed.

NSEA feels that we have struck a good balance between the time needs of teachers, school buildings, and administration as to how the time will be used most effectively. NSEA also worked hard with the district bargaining team to find a way to meet the parameter set by the School Board to not reduce instructional time. 

With the complete elimination of all Learning Improvement Days (non-student teacher work days) by the state Legislature, the Instructional Plan and Collaboration Time model being implemented is the most cost neutral way of completing this important work. 

With the continued underfunding for our schools, this cost savings is the way we protected our students from further cuts to programs or further increases to class sizes. 

This is accomplished by folding this work into the regularly contracted day.  To do this after the end of our contracted work day is a model that Northshore, and most of our surrounding school districts cannot afford.  In the end this saves money for our district.

Change is not always an easy process. 

It will never meet everyone’s needs. As we move forward with these changes, please know that we as the professional educators of the Northshore Education Association are now well equipped to continue to lead the way in excellence in education.

Tim Brittell


Northshore Education Association


My husband, Don, and I are hosting a book sale/fundraiser in our front yard to help with the massive medical expenses and rehabilitation costs for Bothell’s Jessie Owen.

Jessie is a 6th grade teacher at Frank Love Elementary.  She was paralyzed last December when a snow-laden tree crashed onto her family SUV, while driving over Stevens Pass. 

The accident killed her parents and caused critical injuries to her sister and brother-in-law.

The books will be free, but we’re asking for a dollar amount donation to help with Jessie’s expenses.

All proceeds go to in Jessie Owen’s name.

WHEN:  Saturday, July 27 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

WHERE:  20902-33rd DR. SE, Bothell 98021 (Canyon Firs Development near Canyon Creek Elementary, Bothell)

Suzanne Beyer (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Letters to the Editor - July 1, 2013

  • Written by Readers

I was also present at the 2013 graduation ceremony for Woodinville High and wanted to supply a contrasting perspective to last week’s letter to the editor.

In contrast to her perception, I felt that the rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” sung by a popular teacher was an absolute delight.  This sentiment was shared by many of my graduating daughter’s friends.

His somewhat unconventional interpretation covered a number of diverse styles from Irish Tenor to Road House Blues, reflecting the diversity of our great nation. I felt it gave an air of freshness and spontaneity to what was a fairly long and heavily choreographed event.  Let’s face it, our national anthem is a “classic” in the deepest sense of the word. As a classic, it is important that it be re-interpreted every so often, so that we hear it afresh, and think about the insights it gives us into our lives here and now.

When a classic gets trapped in a single acceptable interpretation, like a flower pressed between the pages of a book – it dies.

This teacher has obviously spent his Ten Thousand Hours working with teens and came up with a very creative way to make this powerful piece of music speak to them, to pass the responsibility of preserving its meaning to the next generation.

My perception was that he cared deeply about these students and about his country.

I admire the previous writer’s intense desire to preserve tradition, but know that our country has survived and prospered on its ability to reinterpret its traditions.  Think of how Abraham Lincoln reinterpreted the words from the Declaration of Independence “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” in his Gettysburg Address.  

I am pretty sure that the founding fathers who penned these words were referring to people like themselves: white, male, landowning, and educated.

As we approach the 237th birthday of our democracy, I am immensely thankful to our sixteenth president for expanding the meaning of those words and reinterpreting our tradition.

Teresa Guenther,
Proud Falcon Parent

Letters to the Editor - June 24, 2013

  • Written by Readers


I recently learned that our elementary school (East Ridge) will be closing two hours early each Wednesday next year and am struck by the mathematics of it. In theory, a minimum school year length should be 180 days. This was at one point reduced by waiver to 175 days (I may be wrong here). So, 175/5 = 35 weeks. Now, if we take 2 hours out of the week, that is 70 hours of class time. Given that each day is generously assumed to be approximately 6 hours of class time (I consider recess part of the learning process), 70/6 = 11.6667 days, rounded up is 12 days of your child’s education gone!

Please feel free to correct my math because I hope I’m off.

Brian Bordeau, Woodinville


On Friday (June 14, 2013) I sent a note to NSD Superintendent Francois and the NSD School Board, voicing my disappointment with the decision to implement weekly staff planning times on Wednesday afternoons as opposed to Friday afternoons. Friday afternoons had overwhelmingly been chosen by 65 percent of respondents to a NSD public survey. Superintendent Francois responded to my feedback in an email that stated many reasons why the NSD went against public opinion and chose Wednesdays.

He sent this same email to several parents I know who voiced negative feedback. Below are some of my responses to his email:

Dear Superintendent Francois and NSD School Board:

Thank you for your timely response. I can see you have put a lot of thought into this matter and I appreciate your consideration:

"Our reasoning to favor a Wednesday early release was a belief that it would be less likely that students/families would choose to not come to school at all on Wednesday (middle of the week) versus Monday or Friday where we already have higher absence rates." – Superintendent Francois (6/17/2013)

As for your reasoning as to why Friday wasn’t chosen, the message I can’t help but  hear is that "parents don’t really know what’s best for their kids and family." I’m sorry that some parents already allow their children to skip school on Fridays. I can’t imagine why they would do that.

Perhaps there is a false opinion that Fridays are mainly for class parties and other "busy work," and that it’s not a great day for learning? I can assure you that my family (and most families I know) value every hour that our children are in school.

Personally, I work very hard to make sure that I don’t take my kids out of school early unnecessarily.

In the 7 years I’ve had my boys in school, it’s been very rare that they are absent for reasons other than illness or unavoidable doctor appointments, and trust me this has not always been appreciated by my kids (and sometimes not by my husband!).

That said, I don’t appreciate the NSD administration and the school board assuming that the poor choices of some families should bring consequences to those of us who encourage diligence in our children.

After all, this is data I’m sure you were aware of before this process started, so why did you give us the option to vote for Friday? There is just no way of overstating this — getting out on Friday afternoons vs. Wednesday afternoons would be much more convenient for families. And, it would soften the blow of this decision overall with a bit of "goodwill."

"We hope and expect that PTAs and other organizations will utilize the collaboration time to offer extended learning opportunities for students. We believe it is more likely that students and families will access these opportunities on a Wednesday versus a Friday." – Superintendent Francois (6/17/2013)

I would caution the statement you make about hoping community organizations should pick up the slack for your decision. Whether our PTA is willing to help with this or not will be up to next year’s Board of Directors.

However, please remember each local PTA unit has its own independent mission statement and goals, and it shouldn’t be assumed that they would feel obligated to bridge this gap. That is an unfair yoke to place on these parent volunteers.

"While the District and Northshore Education Association were not opposed to a Friday early release, both believed that the time would be much more beneficial to those ends on a Wednesday when staff are fresher and more receptive to new learning than at the end of the week where folks are generally more tired." –Superintendent Francois (6/17/13)

Finally, to your point that collaboration at the end of the week would be less effective because teachers would be less tired ...  my question then is whether teachers should be spending their most tired hours of the week with our children?

I would think our kids would benefit most from classroom time when teachers and students are the most "fresh" (Wednesday not Friday).

Having done a fair bit of studying myself, I have come to realize that adults are quite capable of learning at all hours of the day and night, as long as the environment is conducive to learning.

How many of us have taken evening classes and had to study late after the kids have gone to bed?

Certainly a grown adult and professional educator can muster the strength to devote an afternoon toward professional collaboration and lesson planning.

This is a burden the teachers should bear as adults and not at the expense of valuable classroom time early in the week.

An opportunity to finish the week with reflection and forward thinking to Monday morning is by no means a hardship.

All of this said, I concede there are many factors that I’m probably not even aware of that go into running a school district.

So, I don’t wish to come across as hostile or disrespectful. I just want you, the administration office and our School Board, to see that communication is best accomplished through transparency and engaging in dynamic conversation.

What I am (and many others are) hearing is very likely a different message than you intended to send.

First, you said the transition from in-service days to weekly planning was out of your hands, and that you couldn’t tell us until it was too late (because of the private nature of contract negotiations).

Then you said you wanted parents to give you feed-back so you could advocate for us in your next round of negotiations.

Finally, you are now saying that our opinions weren’t well enough informed, and that we should just let you decide for us.

Putting it into those terms, I would think that you could understand the frustration.

What is happening is that parents are losing confidence in the administration and the school board.

And with a bond/levy coming, this is exactly the wrong time for this to happen.

I want our school district to succeed and I hope to rally support for the upcoming bond/levy.

But I don’t see my efforts going very far in the present climate. It’s not too late to stand up for the majority opinion on this.

It seems like you are giving in to the teachers’ union 100 percent on this, and not willing to fight for the parents who went to the trouble to vote.

And if the teachers’ union had nothing to do with this decision, it seems that you have a no confidence that our parents can make wise decisions for their own children and families.

You can choose to send a message of compromise and goodwill to the parents by changing the weekly planning time to Friday afternoon.

Thanks again for your time and consideration.

Parents: I hope you will take the time (even with the final days of school upon us) to email the NSD Administration (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) and School Board (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) with your opinions on this matter.

Respectfully yours,

Angela Van Lierop, via email


In reply to Cyndee Wiese’s letter concerning Northshore School District administration not being in touch with the teaching level:  A solution would be to require all administrators to teach in a classroom every fifth year. They supposedly have teaching certificates so should have no problem?

Sharon Kay Ricketts, Bothell


I’m a fifth grader who believes that more people should care about the endangered animals, or at least care more about them than they do now. If animals go endangered, then poof! Gone.

The animals that may feed off of the animals that become endangered will die when the endangered animals become extinct. When the animals they feed off are gone, then they have nothing much to eat.

Then that animal goes endangered because of no food. Most animals are okay if we eat them, just don’t kill the endangered animals like narwhals. People are killing them for their tooth — also known as a horn.

But because cows aren’t endangered, I bet it’s okay that we eat them. The same goes for pigs.

I think in your newspaper you should spread the word about people caring about endangered animals because they are important to life and most likely always will be.

Madison Williams, Woodinville