Superintendent's Message

Dr. Gary Plano

April 27, 2016 

Dear families, staff and friends of Mercer Island Schools,

As we enter the homestretch of the 2015-16 school year, I'd like to share a few important updates with you.

Breakfast of Champions fundraising continues until June 10: Thanks to the generosity of our community, the Mercer Island Schools Foundation raised $503,523 toward its goal of $1.2 million at the kickoff event on April 26. We are immensely grateful for the Foundation's support, which helps every student in every classroom in our district.

At the breakfast we honored four remarkable graduates of Mercer Island High School with the new Pathfinder Award for improving humankind with their leadership, creativity and character. Next time you enter the main entrance of the high school, look for the wall honoring our Pathfinder Awards and Distinguished Graduates.

Dedication of Northwood Elementary: Please save the date of Saturday, June 18 for the dedication and open house for the new Northwood Elementary, from 9 to 11:30 a.m. The new school is spectacular and we can't wait for you to see it!

Meanwhile, construction of the new commons, classrooms and gymnasium at Islander Middle School is proceeding on time and within budget. A dedication of those new facilities is planned for September. We continue to post monthly construction updates for both buildings here. Thank you to our community for making these new and upgraded buildings possible for our students. 

Washington Achievement Awards: Island Park and West Mercer were named recipients of 2015 Washington Achievement Awards recently by Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn and the Washington State Board of Education.

Island Park earned awards for High Progress and English Language Acquisition and West Mercer for High Progress. This is the seventh year of these awards, and Mercer Island schools have been honored each year by the state. They honor the outstanding work done every day by all of our students and staff, as well as the partnership between our schools and families. 

Elementary Spanish-language program: The district is moving forward with a new Spanish language program to begin in the fall of 2016. This will be a great enhancement to the K-5 curriculum.

From the initial planning, Spanish will be taught in a 40-minute instructional segment in a rotation with P.E. and Music. Our study of a world language program has spanned two academic years, with much thought, research and reflection. Thank you to our families for your support as we went through this process. We have recruited qualified teachers for this program and are developing curriculum. 

Later start for HS on Wednesdays next fall: Beginning with the 2016-17 school year, the high school will start at 8:45 a.m. on Wednesdays only and the instructional day will end at 2:50 p.m. The high school schedule for the remaining days of the week (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday) will remain at an 8 a.m. start and a 3 p.m. end to the instructional day.

The change is needed because our new Northwood Elementary School will be releasing students on Wednesdays at 2 p.m. and we needed to avoid high school release five minutes later. Northwood and MIHS are both located in close proximity to each other. With the later start time for MIHS on Wednesday only, our students will leave campus at 2:50, with plenty of transition time from Northwood's release.

Plans are in place to use MISD transportation to transport high school students to and from school on Wednesday. Metro will continue to provide high school transportation on the four remaining days of the school week.

Elementary Bell Times: The instructional day will begin at 9:15 next fall (five minutes later than present) and end at 3:45. Ten minutes were added to the instructional day as the district needs to accommodate the new Spanish-language program. With the newly configured elementary school boundaries created by adding a fourth elementary school, bus routes (ride times) will be shortened considerably and many students will arrive home at nearly the same time as they do today even though school will be ending 15 minutes later. 

As always, I sincerely appreciate the contributions by each one of you to support our students as they grow and learn.

Thank you and best regards,

Gary Plano, Ed. D.