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Superintendent Rundle March Message on Enrollment, Dates of Significance, Student & Staff Accomplishments, and Architectural Planning

Superintendent Rundle March Message on Enrollment, Dates of Significance, Student & Staff Accomplishments, and Architectural Planning
Ian Henry

Dear Mercer Island Community,

It has taken me 14 years in Washington to finally grow accustomed to our calendar. For those of us who are transplants, we have a history of school years typically beginning in mid to early August and ending in late May, with March feeling closer to the end of the school year. Now that my bio and academic rhythm is in sync with the Pacific Northwest calendar, I’m thrilled to know we still have over a third of the year to go for teaching and learning! This is not the time to throttle down but rather hit our stride and finish strong.

In this month’s update, I wish to provide you information about

  • Enrollment;
  • Progress on the concept design and architectural planning for Islander Middle School and Mercer Island High School;
  • Accomplishments by some students and staff; and
  • Cultural days of significance in March.   

Enrollment
I will conduct a community webinar on March 11 to discuss a formal proposal I will take to our school board on Thursday, March 14 regarding Open Enrollment for 8th-12th grades. Unlike periods of open enrollment in the past, I believe it is in the best interest not to open the district to K-12 at this time but rather take a more measured approach and focus on grades 8-12.

Open enrollment is a process whereby a district accepts transfers from students outside of the district boundaries. Currently, we are the only district in our region not open to outside students. 

The primary reason I will make my recommendation is to preserve the outstanding programs, services, and opportunities at Mercer Island High School. To retain the experiences we offer both during and outside of the school day, we need to maintain enrollment at or slightly higher than our current enrollment. We know incoming 9th grade classes will be smaller than graduating classes for the foreseeable future, so a limited period of open enrollment is a measured solution. As one of our teachers and MIHS Principal Wold stated, we are talking about sustaining an optimal enrollment equilibrium, the space where the student enrollment neither drops nor grows such that current opportunities are sacrificed.   

Open enrollment will not be used in lieu of our ongoing attempts to attract new students, retain those in our district, and encourage those who left to return. These efforts will continue in earnest, especially in our elementary and middle school. Open enrollment is one strategy to not only stabilize enrollment and programming at MIHS, but ensure our high school maintains the caliber of excellence both the community and we expect. If we are to attract, retain, and return families, we need MIHS to continue its exemplary tradition.

Please join me on March 11 from 6-7pm for the community webinar to learn more. 

Concept Design and Architectural Planning for Islander Middle School and Mercer Island High School

Teams representing IMS and MIHS will convene early this month to interview architecture firms who will facilitate the conceptual design process to replace the older half of IMS and modernize certain parts of MIHS. Once selected, the architects will facilitate focus group discussions throughout the spring to gather interests, hopes, and dreams for these two projects. This work will form the basis for a potential bond proposal to be brought before the Mercer Island voters in April 2025. Please be looking for ways you can be involved along the way.

Students and Staff Making Their Mark

  • The MIHS Education Coalition for Asian American Representation (ECAAR) Club held a Night Market at MIHS on February 11. It was a great night of community and belonging. Congratulations to ECAAR for putting on an excellent Night Market as part of the Lunar New Year celebration.
  • GeekWire reporter Nathalie Graham wrote a great story on the newly created IMS Esports team. IMS computer programming and robotics teacher Sarah Olson, who started the team, told Nathalie “We wanted to tap into that passion and help students who might be typically isolated into a place where they could form friendships and compete together.” I commend Sarah for fostering inclusiveness at IMS with the creation of the team. 
  • I’m going to have to get over to Northwood Elementary to pick up a Belonging Bracelet. The school unveiled these new bracelets at their first Belonging Assembly of the year. 
  • I was excited to see the MIHS Maroon Project traveled to Olympia in late January to meet with 41st Legislative District members to highlight proposed amendments to HB 1273, a bill in which all Washington schools must provide menstrual products at no cost in all bathrooms. It’s great to see our students taking part in our democracy. 
  • Chris Lawler, the new MIHS boys baseball coach, is an alumnus of the high school. I always enjoy seeing graduates come back to our district to support students. 
  • MIHS hosted a very successful Blood Drive last week. They were hoping to get 84 units donated but our community showed up and they received a whopping 122 units. They are hosting a second blood drive in April. The spirit and empathy of the MIHS Student Senate to organize the blood drive with the Red Cross and our community to take part is awesome. 
  • Thank you to Mariners play-by-play voice Aaron Goldsmith for visiting KMIH 88.9 The Bridge in early February. The opportunities MIHS broadcast media teachers Joe Bryant and Natalie Woods provide for students to interact with local media members is excellent. 
  • I just learned this morning that a robotics team from IMS won the 2024 Washington Vex Robotics Competition (VRC) Middle School Regional Championship. Congratulations to the team. We will have a write up on the team on the IMS website today which we will share on our social media platforms. 

Significant Cultural and Religious Celebrations in March

Women’s History Month
During the month of March, we proudly celebrate Women's History Month, a time dedicated to recognizing and honoring the remarkable contributions of women throughout history. This month serves as a tribute to the countless trailblazers whose achievements have shaped and enriched our world. From scientists and artists to activists and leaders, women have played pivotal roles in every facet of human progress. Regardless of their notoriety, as we reflect on their accomplishments, may we be inspired to foster an environment that empowers every student, regardless of gender, to pursue their dreams and make their mark on the world. Our schools will use opportunities this month to celebrate women’s history month. 

Ramadan Mubarak- March 11
The sacred month of Ramadan will commence on March 11 (+/- one day) and last 29 to 30 days. I extend my warmest wishes to our Muslim students, staff, and families. Ramadan is a significant and cherished time for reflection, spiritual growth, and community bonding. It is a month of fasting, prayer, and acts of kindness, reminding us of the values of empathy and compassion. In recognizing the diverse traditions within our school district, we embrace the opportunity to learn from our Muslim friends and foster an environment of inclusivity. Let us take this occasion to deepen our understanding of our rich cultural differences that make Mercer Island vibrant and strong.

St. Patrick’s Day- March 17
This cultural and religious observance, held on March 17th, commemorates St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. Beyond the vibrant green festivities, St. Patrick's Day carries historical significance as a day to honor Irish heritage and the spread of Christianity in Ireland. Traditionally, people wear green, attend parades, and partake in a variety of festivities to celebrate the day.

Spring is Here- March 19!

  • Nowruz- I extend warm greetings to those within our diverse community who celebrate Nowruz, the Persian New Year. Nowruz, which translates to "New Day," is a celebration that holds great cultural and historical significance for millions around the world, particularly in Persian communities. Nowruz marks the first day of spring and the beginning of the year in the Iranian calendar. It symbolizes renewal, rebirth, and the triumph of light over darkness. Families gather to share festive meals, engage in traditional activities, and set up a Haft-Seen table adorned with symbolic items representing different aspects of life.
  • Spring Vernal Equinox- Spring will officially begin on the vernal equinox when the sun, traveling in a northerly direction, crosses over the Equator. This marks the half-way point between the darkest part of winter and lightest part of summer. Especially for cities, states, and countries further north from the Equator, spring is a well received time to rejuvenate and get excited about the warmer weather and longer days. And don’t forget to set your clocks an hour ahead Saturday night as we spring forward to daylight savings time. 

Christian Holy Week
March will come to a conclusion this year with the Christian Holy Week that celebrates Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter. I wish Christians in our community a very blessed Holy Week.

  • Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week, commemorating Jesus Christ's entry into Jerusalem, where crowds greeted him with palm branches, symbolizing his role as the Messiah.
  • Good Friday is a solemn day of reflection on the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, a pivotal moment in Christian theology. Christians worldwide observe this day as a time of penance and meditation on the profound sacrifice made for humanity's redemption.
  • Easter Sunday, the culmination of Holy Week, joyously celebrates the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, symbolizing victory over sin and death. For Christians, Easter is a time of immense joy, renewal, and the assurance of eternal life.

The final third of our school year will undoubtedly be filled with successes and celebrations. This is the time of year when months of hard work come together, allowing students to demonstrate growth and achievement in academics, athletics, activities, and as people.   

Sincerely, 

Fred Rundle

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