Issaquah School Board Poised To Not Renew Financial Chief Jake Kuper’s Contract

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The Issaquah School Board apparently will not renew the contract of the Issaquah School District’s longtime financial chief, Jake Kuper.  Kuper, the district’s Chief Financial and Operating Officer, has been with the district for 18 years.

Kuper said he was verbally notified by Superintendent Ron Thiele that his one-year contract was not being renewed, but the school board has yet to take formal action.  The district publicly posted Kuper’s job earlier this month.  Kuper’s current contract ends June 30, 2022, which coincides with the date of Thiele’s retirement.  Deputy Superintendent Josh Almy also is leaving at the same time for an international education job in Qatar, Kuper said.


Issaquah School District spokesperson Lesha Engels said about Kuper’s contract nonrenewal that the district “does not and will not have a statement.”  Engels said she does not yet know when Kuper’s employment status will be on the school board’s agenda for 2022-23.  As of the date of this article, the school board has not addressed his contract, Kuper said.

Kuper’s exit follows comments he made on social media in August 2021 reflecting his personal views regarding mask and vaccine mandates.  Kuper declined to comment on the reason the district is not renewing his contract but confirmed the district has “decided to go in a different direction.” 

“You know, I’ve enjoyed immensely the opportunities and challenges this community and district has given me over the years,” Kuper said, adding that he is exploring other options.

Angela McSwain, president of the local bus driver’s union, AFSCME Local 21-I, said in a letter to the school board that she was “shocked and deeply disappointed” that Kuper’s contract is not being renewed.  She noted his exemplary service to the district and a person who is a “tough but fair” negotiator and “exactly the person you want holding the purse strings.”  She said in the letter that he often has been “the public face of ISD’s many projects and levies—in many cases, not an enviable position, considering the differences of public opinion.”

Regarding Kuper’s post on social media, McSwain said in an interview that she “never would have guessed Kuper had those opinions” because he never brings his personal views to the workplace.  If his post is the reason his contract is not being renewed, she said she is not aware of any complaints about Kuper’s pandemic-related work for the district prior to that post.

The district and school board have received hundreds of letters opposing nonrenewal of Kuper’s contract, according to McSwain, who said she delivered a majority of them herself.  She also said that some bus drivers have mentioned striking. 

She said Kuper supported bus drivers throughout the pandemic.  “If I needed something, I knew who to call,” she said.  “Jake gets things done.”   And she credited Kuper for the district’s strong financial position.  

For more Issaquah School District coverage, click here.

3 Comments. Leave new

  • Elliot Pederson
    April 20, 2022 9:31 pm

    Finally! Prevailing opinion outside the central admin office is Jake Kuper is a bully and obstructionist. Kuper was the CFO/COO, and the person holding the ESSER and Budget purse strings – he also made it known that he thinks that COVID is a hoax and thus wasn’t interested in negotiating for staff and student safety.
    In October 2018 he harassed & threatened an employee during a board meeting. At that same meeting he mocked the testimony of the lowest paid district workers while they testified to regain their cost of living raises that he withheld, breaking the collective bargaining agreement.
    ISD hasn’t delivered a construction project on time or on budget during his tenure.
    There are labor groups (ISD has 6) that would rather not bargain with him because he has a history of being a misogynist in the office and at the bargaining table.
    It’s only fair the new Superintendent isn’t saddled with Kuper’s incompetence.
    But I wonder…what will the board do now that they have to get serious about understanding school finance?

    Reply
  • rick aramburu
    April 21, 2022 8:21 am

    Here is transcript of Mayor Pauly’s comments after the approval of the Providence Heights schools project by the Issaquah City Council:
    April 19, 2022, Issaquah City Council Special Meeting, at approx 1:19:06 (YouTube Video)
    Approval of Resolution 2022-09 by Issaquah City Council

    Mayor Pauly: That passes unanimously…seven and 0.

    I have checked in with our legal counsel, um, to see about having an opportunity to share a few thoughts with you as I’m not a voting member of this particular decision yet have served 20 years on the development commission and worked on many school district projects.

    I am not overjoyed tonight. I’m actually upset. I feel like there is a missed opportunity here. The things that went well, is the staff work on this was outstanding. The development commission work, big lift, bigger lift than I ever did, they did a great job. And what you did tonight was what you could do, which was decide if it met the code. But the code to me is not a visionary or an aspirational anything – it’s a code. There’s a huge lost opportunity here.

    I’m upset that we never talked about what this campus could do to bring our youth forward into the 21st century with something other than a stadium. I heard in the testimony that we were provided for this, somebody called having a stadium at every school “equity.” That’s not. That’s equal. “Equity” is making sure that all of the students in the school have opportunities for what they want to do and not just the sporting community. That was probably the biggest elephant in the room for the community and the neighbors: never got touched. And it’s no fault of the staff, it’s no fault of the council, this is the way the system works, but we should have been able to look at something that was amazing and imaginary and forward-thinking and we got a school from the 1970’s. It just doesn’t look or feel any different. I find that hugely disappointing.

    And I am not part of your voting body but – and I share all the compliments you paid out tonight – but this is, this to me was not our best moment. Not that we could have done it differently but this is not our best moment. (Approx 1:20:07)

    Transcribed on April 20, 2022, from on-line play of recording posted on YouTube. Jake Kuper was the Environmental responsible official for ISD on the schools project discussed by the Mayor below.

    April 19, 2022, Issaquah City Council Special Meeting, at approx 1:19:06 (YouTube Video)
    Approval of Resolution 2022-09 by Issaquah City Council:

    Mayor Pauly: That passes unanimously…seven and 0.

    I have checked in with our legal counsel, um, to see about having an opportunity to share a few thoughts with you as I’m not a voting member of this particular decision yet have served 20 years on the development commission and worked on many school district projects.

    I am not overjoyed tonight. I’m actually upset. I feel like there is a missed opportunity here. The things that went well, is the staff work on this was outstanding. The development commission work, big lift, bigger lift than I ever did, they did a great job. And what you did tonight was what you could do, which was decide if it met the code. But the code to me is not a visionary or an aspirational anything – it’s a code. There’s a huge lost opportunity here.
    I’m upset that we never talked about what this campus could do to bring our youth forward into the 21st century with something other than a stadium. I heard in the testimony that we were provided for this, somebody called having a stadium at every school “equity.” That’s not. That’s equal. “Equity” is making sure that all of the students in the school have opportunities for what they want to do and not just the sporting community. That was probably the biggest elephant in the room for the community and the neighbors: never got touched. And it’s no fault of the staff, it’s no fault of the council, this is the way the system works, but we should have been able to look at something that was amazing and imaginary and forward-thinking and we got a school from the 1970’s. It just doesn’t look or feel any different. I find that hugely disappointing.

    And I am not part of your voting body but – and I share all the compliments you paid out tonight – but this is, this to me was not our best moment. Not that we could have done it differently but this is not our best moment. (Approx 1:20:07)

    Reply
  • Bryan Weinstein
    April 23, 2022 10:03 am

    For years all we heard is that ISD can only build schools on flat, square parcels. If senior leadership, including the Board, are incapable of solving 21st century problems with 21st century resources, then there need to be a lot more personnel changes.

    Reply

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