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January 25, 2013 [B1]

A Tribute to the Superintendent

AT LEFT: Mary Alice Heuschel speaks of her six years with the Renton schools, between meetings and getting her office packed up in early January. Dean A. Radford, Renton Reporter ABOVE: Dr. Heuschel helps students at Highlands Elementary with backpacks in September 2008. Renton School District

Mary Alice Heuschel

She’s leaving Renton’s schools in good hands as she takes on critical state issues as Inslee’s chief of staff By DEAN A. RADFORD

It’s hard to say no to a governor, but Mary Alice Heuschel wasn’t going to leave the Renton School District behind if it wasn’t in good hands. It is and Heuschel is now chief of staff for Gov. Jay Inslee. Heuschel, 51, will bring a lot of Renton with her to Olympia, from her ability to build a team around common goals to measuring whether those goals have been achieved – and being up-front when they haven’t. Inslee had to pass muster with Heuschel, too, who is essentially gatekeeper to Inslee’s time, making sure it’s used effectively. All state department heads will report to her. “This is a big move for me,” Heuschel said, one she didn’t seek out. “I would not and did not take this position lightly in any way, shape or form when he first approached me about doing this.” Inslee initially appointed Heuschel as one of three leaders of his transition to the Governor’s Office. Heuschel explained why she took the job in answering a question about partisanship in Washington, D.C. Inslee was elected

eight times to serve as a U.S. congressman from Washington. What she has seen and learned about Inslee are the reasons she took the job – his “absolute commitment” to the state and his “total understanding” of the need to work collaboratively across the aisle in Olympia to move the state forward. “The voters have spoken, this is the work, and we need to make Washington the best

place it can be for the people of the state of Washington. That’s why he’s doing it, or I wouldn’t have said yes,” she said. While serving as chief of staff to a governor wasn’t in her career plans, serving as the superintendent of either the Renton School District or the Tacoma School District was. Heuschel has worked in Olympia before, as deputy superintendent of public instruction. It was there that she played a key role in developing the state’s student assessments, including the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, and in implementing the federal No Child Left Behind law. Heuschel worked for state school Superintendent Terry Bergeson for six years, including running the office while Bergeson ran for her second term. But Heuschel still had unfinished business. She wanted to complete her doctorate degree and she wanted to fill a gap in her resume, that of school superintendent at the local level. So she stepped down as Bergeson’s deputy as Bergeson was preparing to run for a third term and started researching school districts. She settled on Renton’s and Tacoma’s and became a finalist for superintendent in both districts in 2006.

Renton and Tacoma were on a similar timeline; Heuschel said she didn’t want to pin one district against the other. Near the end of the selection process, the Tacoma School Board asked to see all the original applications, which delayed an interview with the community by almost a week. In that week Heuschel got a call from Al Talley, then Renton School Board president, and she was offered the Renton job, which she accepted. She replaced Dolores Gibbons. Tacoma had time to consider another applicant in her place, she said. Talley had this to say about Heuschel when she came on board for the start of the 2006-2007 school year: “Our newly hired superintendent, Dr. Mary Alice Heuschel, is committed to providing education in a manner that offers opportunity for every child, at every school, every day.” In an interview with the Renton Reporter, Heuschel said she would have a “very specific focus” on math, with the goal of improving student achievement. “Renton will become the poster child for how to make that happen,” she said in the interview. [ more Heuschel page B3 ]

A tribute from the president of the Renton School Board

Dr. Heuschel: A leader of uncommon talent, energy, integrity By Lynn Desmarais

Dr. Mary Alice Heuschel’s time with us has been about building on a legacy of strong leadership and commitment to the Renton School District community. We knew her to be a leader of uncommon talent, ability, clear vision, energy and

integrity who was uniquely suited to taking on this challenge because of her experience leading the statewide education reform work at OSPI. From the beginning, Mary Alice validated that we chose our superintendent very well. Mary Alice’s predecessors, Drs. Gary Kohlwes and Dolores Gibbons, have a

legacy of setting our facilities plan on a path to rebuilding and renovation, as well as strengthening and building community partnerships, and establishing a firm foundation for the education reform work. That work continued during Mary Alice’s tenure, and has included completion the Secondary Learning Center and Honey-

dew Elementary School. The new Early Childhood Education Center will open this fall, and the new middle school 2-1/2 years from now. And, her connections regionally, statewide and nationally added new dimensions to the partnerships that benefit our schools in many ways. [ more tribute page B4 ]

[B2] January 25, 2013

What does it mean to have Ahead of the Curve Schools? It’s a community passionate about education and each student’s success. It’s amazing teachers and staff. And it’s an outstanding superintendent. Under the leadership of Dr. Mary Alice Heuschel, Renton schools are a national model of success. The Renton School District has a 94% high school graduation rate — significantly above the Washington average of 76.5%. There’s also been a double-digit increase in student scores on state math and science tests at every grade level. 77% of funding goes for classroom instruction (Washington State average is 70%). Only 7% of the budget for district administration. The district has received a decade of awards for financial management and reporting. Thank you Dr. Heuschel for your incredible leadership and best wishes as you join Gov. Inslee’s administration. We look forward to continuing to work with you and our community to keep Renton Schools Ahead of the Curve.

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January 25, 2013 [B3]

‘The team here is phenomenal’ This is what the School Board had to say, in part, in her final evaluation in early January: “Mary Alice’s ‘fierce focus’ emphasis on student achievement had been her highest priority, and has become the district culture. She has established a team structure that allows the instructional strategy/assessment process to take place in a systemic way, and ensures that program evaluation and improvement plans are data-driven.” Test scores and graduation rates have improved in the last six years. Still, Heuschel isn’t completely satisfied. “We still have a long way to go,” she said. But Heuschel said one reason she was able to accept Inslee’s offer is that she has 100 percent confidence the capacity in the district – “the team here is phenomenal” – is built and a system is in place “for Renton to continue its work.” And she calls the Renton community “amazing.” “I have full expectations that specifically in mathematics that those successes will continue in the coming years,” she said. Heuschel would not have accepted Inslee’s offer three years ago, just like she turned down other job opportunities. “I had no desire to leave Renton,” she said. But “it’s just hard to say no to the governor for this kind of position,” she said. So what was different three years ago, halfway through her tenure as Renton superintendent? “In my mind that within three years we could move the system, but three years ago our capacity wasn’t sufficient that our achievement results would soar. I have that now,” she said. The district built that capacity through hiring decisions, investment of time, professional development and working as a team to demonstrate that new ideas and practices would work effec-


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• 2006, Hired as the Renton School District Superintendent. • 2006, The estimated on-time graduation rate stands at 75 percent. • May 20, 2008, $150 million bond measure passes with 62 percent of the vote. The measure includes funds for a rebuild of the Secondary Learning Center, the Early Childhood Learning Center, an additional wing at Hazen High School, portable buildings and other school improvements. • August 2009, district forced to cut fifth-grade band and orchestra program due to budget restrictions • January 2010, Heuschel and Bob Bridge solicit thousands of dollars from Boeing, the Seattle Seahawks and Bob Bridge Toyota for a new Renton School District foundation. • November 2010, Heuschel named Washington’s 2011 Superintendent of the Year. • 2011, Heuschel tries for a spot on the Public Hospital District No.1 Board of Commissioners, but loses the election to Dr. Paul Joos. • January 2011, Heuschel selected as one of the top four finalist in the running for 2011 National Superintendent of the Year. • August 2011, Heuschel flies into the wild blue yonder with the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels. She was nominated as a regional Key Influencer by the local Navy Command Office. • June 2011, The adjusted, four-year, cohort, graduation rate jumps to 78 percent. • October 2011, Heuschel reports significant gains in state test scores for

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third- through 10th-grades. Also, there are improvements in math scores, which are up in every grade level, with nearly 70 percent of elementary schools seeing gains between 20 and 40 percent. • April 2012, Heuschel meets Jay Inslee, Democratic contender for governor for this first time. Inslee unveils his plans for the state’s education system at Talbot Hill Elementary School. • April 17, 2012, $97 million schoolimprovement bond measure passed with 61 percent of the vote. Funds for constructing a new middle school, rebuilding the Lindberg High Pool, replacement of portable buildings and other school improvements. • September 2012, Honey Dew Elementary School opens as a full kindergarten through fifth-grade school to alleviate crowding in the district. • September 2012, the Secondary Learning Center, the district’s non-traditional high school program, opens on the site of Black River High School. Black River housed the program since 1980. • September 2012, Briarwood Elementary reopens to a new facility after a makeover provided by a 2006 bond measure. • November 14, 2012, Heuschel named as one of the three co-chairs on Gov.-elect Jay Inslee’s transition team. • Nov. 30, 2012, Heuschel named as Inslee’s chief of staff. • January 2013, Heuschel takes office as Inslee’s chief of staff after he is sworn in as governor.


Thank you for your commitment to the Renton Community. Good luck on your new adventure.

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[ Heuschel from page B1]

tively, she said. “It takes a long time to change culture, to change and build capacity of staff,” she said, requiring “a huge commitment of everybody.” “When professionals see that it is effective and it works, then they own it, they do it. You don’t have to tell them. They do that work because they are in it for the right reasons,” she said. There’s another reason why Heuschel may have turned down Inslee. In 2011, Heuschel ran for an open seat on Board of Commissioners of Public Hospital District No. 1, eventually losing to Dr. Paul Joos. A victory would have presented her with “an interesting dilemma,” she said. “It would have been a game changer because when I did that, I made a commitment. And I keep my commitments. I likely would have had to turn down the opportunity.” Any disappointments Heuschel has had in her six years have had to do with the district’s budget. “If we had more resources from the very beginning, I think Renton could have been where they will be in two to five years sooner,” she said. Major cuts to basic support of education have been a disappointment, she said. As Inslee’s chief policy adviser, Heuschel will be intimately involved in how the state addresses the state Supreme Court’s McLeary decision, which mandates massive spending to fund basic education. “The McLeary decision has helped to stave off some of those kinds of devastating cuts,” she said, but the state isn’t in a position to immediately return state funding to where it needs to be. “And so the longer it takes to do that, the longer it will take for our state to see what we should expect of student achievement in the public education system,” she said.

A Heuschel, school timeline

[B4] January 25, 2013 A tribute from the mayor of Renton

She made the city a better place It is my honor to pay tribute to Dr. Mary Alice Heuschel, an individual whose dedication and contributions to the Renton community are exceptional. We have been fortunate to have such a dynamic and dedicated leader who has given her time and talent to make our city a better place. As the superintendent of the Renton School District, Dr. Heuschel has guided the district through many challenges and many accomplishments. With collaboration and problem solving, the district has experienced a steady increase in academic scores for students and significantly closed the achievement gap among different groups of students. During her tenure here in Renton, Dr. Heuschel has been a leader and contributor to the success of a number of key community initiatives and programs. Representing the school district, she has been a vital partner and stakeholder for Renton’s community marketing campaign and helped guide its success. Thanks to her

leadership Friends of Renton Schools has raised more than $450,000 and helped improve student learning. She has participated in a number of local community organizations including the Renton Community Foundation, Renton Rotary, the Business Education Exchange, and the Renton Chamber of Commerce. I am particularly grateful to Dr. Heuschel for her partnership with the city to build an accessible playground in Renton. This is the first joint development project between the City of Renton and the Renton School District and, once completed, this all-inclusive playground will provide an environment where all children, including their families and caregivers, can challenge their minds and bodies and will provide opportunities for different generations to play and learn together. We are confident that in her new role as chief of staff for Gov. Jay Inslee, she will continue her tireless service and dedication to our state and be a champion for the Renton community. I look forward to working closely with her in her new role and wish her all the best.

From the CEO of Valley Medical Center

She had practical grounding to work on health-care issues By Rich Roodman

Since her first day on the job, Mary Alice Heuschel developed, enhanced and furthered the scholastic and community stature of the Renton School District. As the daughter of a registered nurse, her childhood orientation into healthcare issues gave her the practical foundation and interest to work with Valley Medical Center, which included her participation on our Consumer’s Advisory Committee which ultimately

made the recommendation to pursue an alliance with UW Medicine . . . the largest and most distinguished academic medical enterprise in the Pacific Northwest. While Mary Alice’s leadership role within the Renton community has facilitated myriad accomplishments, of equal note is the professional and positive attitude she exudes on a day-to-day basis as both she and the school district achieved their remarkable results. Mary Alice is a savvy and talented leader among leaders and she will be sincerely missed!

Best Wishes On Your New Position

[ tribute from page B1] Mary Alice’s core beliefs are that every student deserves an excellent teacher, and every school, an excellent principal, and that a comprehensive system of improvement must be based on proven, data-driven educational strategies. Districtwide, teachers and administrators have embraced the school improvement initiatives, strengthened their skills through professional development, established common goals, practices and dialog. And the result? The district has moved far in terms of equity of opportunity for our students; students at every grade level are realizing great gains on state math and science tests, with 70 percent of elementary schools seeing test score improvements of 20 percent to 44 percent last year; elementary students reading and comprehending at grade level by third grade; nearly 98 percent of those middle school students taking algebra to prepare for higher-level math in high school passed their course; and the number of high school students taking Advanced Placement classes increasing by 71 percent this year; and of course, our 93 percent extended graduation rate. You may wonder how such progress could have been made in recent years, as school districts have faced ever-tightening and less predictable financial resources. Our student population is increasingly diverse in terms of ethnicity, economic disparity, culture and language, behavior and ability, and life experiences. Mary Alice and her staff have been successful in bringing in several million dollars in grant money to pilot effective classroom strategies, which then became models for implementation across the district. One example is a $3 million grant from the Seattle Foundation to cover the cost of “academic liaisons,” specialists who closely monitor middle school students for attendance and grade issues. These factors have been proven to be among the early predictors of drop-out potential – the liaisons have the flexibility to intervene and provide support to help students be successful. Dr. Heuschel’s contributions to education in the Renton School District are very deep and will be far-reaching for our students – we are grateful for her time here and her dedication to our community.

Thank you Dr. Heuschel for your years of service to the Renton School District. Good luck on you new adventure.

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