Looking back and moving on

Nicole Hume, News Editor

Unbeknownst to many students, there are dozens of people working in the background to make sure our schools run smoothly. For the past nine years, Superintendent Ron Thiele has been in charge of these silent heroes, but now, he’s ready to put down the cape. 

As someone who spent 33 years in education, many might think that he started out his career dreaming to work in that field, but rather, Thiele began with a degree in International Studies, studying in China for a time to learn Mandarin. He even considered going to law school, but eventually decided to go to the School of Education at Seattle Pacific University. Looking back on how he got into the Education program, Thiele recalls his limited knowledge on the process of becoming a teacher.

“I thought that it would just be handing me the keys to a classroom and putting me in front of students,” Thiele said. 

Thiele began teaching in Seattle, then moved to Kent, then Los Angeles. Eventually, he made his final move to Issaquah, and started to teach social studies at the middle school level. 

He then went on to get his Master’s degree in administration, and held various administration positions, at one time being in charge of all elementary and middle schools in the Issaquah School District. 

Even though Thiele knows how difficult teaching can be, he speaks fondly of education. 

“I love my career, and I am a huge fan of public education. It’s a hard job. But it’s a great job,” Thiele said.

“I supervised 19 principals, 19 schools, and I drove to every nook and cranny of this district, I know where every 110 square miles of this district are,” Thiele said, “and when [the superintendent at the time] retired, I did something sort of bold. I reached out to the school board. I wrote them an email, and I said, ‘I have a plan to save you $50,000. Because you don’t have to conduct a superintendent search. I think I’m the person for the job.’ Surprisingly, they agreed with me,” Thiele said.

As the Issaquah School District Superintendent, Thiele has overseen the tremendous growth of Issaquah. The superintendent is meant to manage the entire school district, down to each and every single teacher. 

Throughout his time as the superintendent, Thiele has seen the immense growth in the Issaquah School District.

“When I came here, we had 13,000 students at our peak, now we have 21,000,” Theile said,  “I’ve had to oversee the construction and remodel of a lot of schools. Over a billion dollars in money has been spent on my watch.”

One moment of pride for him was getting Gibson Ek High School off the ground, which he attributes to his work in pushing the idea. 

“We made the tough call to close Tiger Mountain Community School, but we had a plan to replace it with a school for people who didn’t feel like they fit in a high school environment,” Thiele said. 

Another is the network of mental health counselors from Swedish Hospital who are provided for Issaquah students, which has been a recent innovation. 

“We were on the cutting edge of these programs to support mental health, and that brought us a lot of pride. [Our network of counselors] have been used as a model in a lot of places,” Thiele said.

Administrators have been essential to Issaquah, and they work to make sure that students have the best experience possible. All day, everyday, people like Thiele consider what could make Issaquah an even stronger community. 

“We have to continually revisit our practices, reassess what we’re doing and adjust to the current times,” Thiele said, “I think that we have done some real good work in terms of how students learn, and how we address emotional health and wellbeing—things that we never, ever talked about early in my career.” 

For his new successor, Ron Thiele hopes that they can work to help the teachers and the students of the district. 

“It is my hope that my successor will continue some of the initiatives that we’ve done in terms of providing expanded mental health services in schools, and keep up the work on how we teach and assess learning,” Thiele said. 

While retirement after 33 years will be a new experience, Thiele is excited to start a new part of his life. 

As a parting message, Thiele sends his regards to the students of Issaquah.

“This is a really good school district. I hope that you feel very, very well prepared for your next step, and I hope you’ll look back on your experiences here fondly. I think you’re all wonderful, and we’ll take a little bit of the credit for that,” Thiele said.