Bellevue Class Size & Budget Data from Bellevue School District

On September 14, 2016, Puesta Del Sol parents requested class size information from across Bellevue School District, via the Washington State Public Records Act, in response to parent concerns related to large fifth grade class sizes at Puesta Del Sol elementary school.

Click here to download/view a document containing both the projected school enrollments size and comparable budget information for Puesta Del Sol and the actual enrollment sizes for the 2016-2017 school year for all schools in Bellevue School District.

In this document, you will notice that:

  • In March 2016, the school district project class size projections.  27.0 is the MAXIMUM class size for BSD, but Puesta Del Sol was budgeted at28.67 (or 29, not 28 as we were told).  So as early as March 2016, BSD and Puesta Del Sol were planinng on eliminating a teacher & classroom and did not inform parents.
  • As of September 14, 2016, Puesta Del Sol has the HIGHEST fifth grade student teacher ratio in ALL OF BELLEVUE at 29.67, while the average for the BSD fifth grade is 24.  
  • If you compare Puesta Del Sol class sizes to the District average for every grade, our class sizes are larger than the average in the rest of the District.
  • Yes, Woodridge and Clyde Hill have large fifth grade class sizes at 29 and 28 respectively.  Ardmore, Enatai, Medina, Phantom Lake, Sherwood Forest, Somerset, and Spirtridge fifth grade classes are at 18.67, 22.75, 23, 22, 20, 21.57, and 22.67 respectively.

Please take a look and the data and come prepared for the Wednesday 9/21meeting at 6pm at Puesta Del Sol in the gym.


The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly – BSD Meeting at Puesta Del Sol Elementary in Bellevue, WA

(Background: Fifth grade class sizes at Spanish immersion school Puesta Del Sol increased from 22.5 students per teacher in 2015-2016 to 30 students per teacher in 2016-2017 which is higher than nearly every other fifth grade elementary school in the Bellevue School District.  Parents have mobilized to understand why this decision was made to increase class sizes at Puesta Del Sol and in Spanish language immersion which teach no English through second grade and require more resources to get students ready for middle school at comparable English levels as as schools which teach primarily in the English medium.)

Update: Bellevue School District provided class size data and budgets for 2016-2017 for comparison across the District.


  • Helpful, but frustrating meeting with Bellevue School District administration on Saturday September 17th, 2016
  • Bellevue School District will be having more meeting this week on Monday 9/19 and Thursday 9/22 to discuss staffing across the District.
  • Puesta Del Sol Parents MUST attend the BSD Board meeting on Tuesday 9/20 at 4pm at WISC Rainier Room, 12241 Main St, Bellevue, WA 98005 AND the second Bellevue School District Meeting at Puesta Del Sol on Wednesday 9/21 at 6pm in the Puesta Del Sol Gym or this issue will get swept under the carpet.
  • If you are interested in email updates on the process & parent advocacy for Puesta Del Sol, please use this link to sign up for the email updates:

The GOOD:   We had more than 50 parents attend the meeting with Bellevue School District Board member My-Lihn Thai, Executive Director Cindy Rogan, and Principal Jonathan Shearer.   It was great to hear from the other parents, many of whom shared the similar questions, frustrations, and emotions around the 30:1 student to teacher ratio in the Puesta Del Sol fifth grade.  It was GOOD to have a conversation primarily with Ms. Rogan regarding how we got here and how the Bellevue School District makes staffing decisions.  Additionally, we found out that there are meetings on Monday 9/19 and Thursday 9/22 to continue to discuss district staffing.  The fat lady has not sung yet!  One of the parents took notes from the BSD Puesta Del Sol Class Size Meeting.

The BAD: From my opinion, the BAD centered around an opaque decision making process that is fundamentally broken for Puesta Del Sol and language immersion.  From what I understood, the School District made the decision that “28 students per class” is appropriate for Puesta Del Sol intermediate grades of 3rd, 4th and 5th grade.  Since Puesta Del Sol is language immersion, Puesta attracts very few NEW students after Kindergarten, who must test into the school.  So Puesta class sizes simply attrite over the years.  So, at the point 10 students leave a grade for whatever reason, the Bellevue School District feels it appropriate to eliminate a classroom, jumping class sizes from 22 students per classroom to 30.  Most of the student attrition occurs from grades 3 through 5 when English & Spanish are being taught and students start to struggle with the immersion program.  There is a real question if Puesta Del Sol is doing all it can do to support students are struggling from 3rd grade to 5th.  These are also the same students that will struggle in classes with a 30:1 student teacher ratio.

Our own Koan Mauer was literally up until midnight analyzing class size by grade by year for the past fifteen years using the yearbooks.  Click to see linked spreadsheet on Puesta Del Sol Class Sizes for the Past Fifteen Years.  Over the past fifteen years we have not seen class sizes higher than 28 students per teacher and that we have only seen 2 classes out of 90 classes with 28 students (3rd grade and 4th grade in 2009-2010).   Now we are at 30.

The UGLY: Personally, I left the meeting angrier about the situation than before.  No data or rationale for the class sizes was presented, other than “28 students per class is a good number for Puesta.”  I had sent Ms. Rogan, Ms. Thai, Deputy Superintendent deVita, and Principal Shearer an exhaustive list of questions ahead of time, but they were not discussed.  Because Ms. deVita was not present today, the “data questions” were deferred to the next meeting.  It is clear that the class sizes that we are seeing at Puesta are “the rare exception” in Bellevue, yet there was no commitment to add an additional teacher.  There was also NO CONSIDERATION that Puesta Del Sol is Spanish language immersion.  I understand that managing a budget for the school district is complex and there are many considerations, YET I am angry that the decision was made to remove resources from the Puesta fifth grade.  This could easily happen in 4th grade and perhaps 3rd grade based on the budgeting rationale that was presented.

Finally, much of the data presented was contradictory to other information we had heard from Senator Litzow’s office or been able to find on our own  (like Koan Maurer’s analysis).   The minimal data we heard added insult to injury.  Hopefully we will get the right information on Wednesday at 6pm at the next meeting.    

WHAT’S NEXT?  We did not accomplish much today, so we need to keep the pressure on.  Please plan on attending & speaking at:

  • The BSD Board Meeting on Tuesday 9/20 at 4pm at WISC Rainier Room, 12241 Main St, Bellevue, WA 98005
  • The BSD Meeting at Puesta Del Sol on Wednesday 9/21 at 6pm in Puesta Del Sol Gym

I do believe Board Member My-Lihn Thai is sympathetic to our situation and will be an advocate.  Please continue to email her, cc:ing Ms. Rogan, Principal Shearer, Superintendent Tim Mills, and Deputy Superintendent Melissa deVita.

Also, it is clear that engaging with our elected representatives has had impact as conversations with Senator Litzow’s office were referenced by BSD.  Keep working to get those representatives engaged!

Let’s get some rest – both mental and physical – and gear up again for next week!


Washington State Elected Representatives for Bellevue

Name Phone Number Email Address
Senator Steve Litzow (R)

41st Legislative District

(360) 786 – 7641


Senator Cyrus Habib (D)
Democratic Whip
48th Legislative District
(360) 786 – 7694


Representative Judy Clibborn (D)

41st Legislative District

(360) 786 – 7926


Representative Joan McBride (D)
Assistant Majority Whip
48th Legislative District
(360) 786 – 7848


Representative Tana Senn (D)
41st Legislative District
(360) 786 – 7894
Representative Patty Kuderer (D)
48th Legislative District
(360) 786 – 7936

 Bellevue City Council

Name Phone Number Email Address
Mayor John Stokes  425-452-7810
Deputy Mayor John Chelminiak 425-452-7810
Councilmember Conrad Lee 425-452-7810
Councilmember Jennifer Robertson 425-452-7810
Councilmember Lynne Robinson

Office Hours
3-5 p.m., Wednesday, Friday

Councilmember Vandana Slatter 425-452-7810
Councilmember Kevin Wallace 425-452-7810


Practical Advice on Starting Your Internship

635993893199221840-282810841_internship-1As many of you start your first internship in a corporate environment, here are some practical tips to make your internship a success.

  1. Cube-ville: Most companies use either cubes or an open seating plan.  Open seating plans are great for communication and collaboration, but BAD for privacy.  So, be aware that you are working in a community.
    • Use headphones: If you are listening to music, use headphones.  Even then, keep your music at a reasonable level.
    • Keep your voice at a reasonable level: If you are talking on the phone or having a conversation, be aware of the people around you.  Use a conference room if you have a long phone call.  DON’T use the speaker phone on your desk in your cube.
    • Keep your social media / YouTube / personal Internet surfing to a minimum: Remember you are work and people can see what you are doing, so don’t spend all day on social media or YouTube even if you are done with work.
    • Silence your mobile phone:  Keep your mobile phone on vibrate.  The worst is having a mobile phone constantly ringing or beeping due to text messages or alerts.
    • Avoid strong smells: If you are going to eat at your desk, avoid strong smelling foods like fish, certain meats, cabbage, etc.  Eat in the kitchen or the common areas if you have those kinds of foods.
  2. Meet & greet: Get to know your boss and your co-workers.  Create a small budget and invite a co-worker or someone at the company out for coffee or lunch several times a week.
  3. Read the news: Take a couple of minutes each day and read the headlines of the news.  Read the front page of the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, or Seattle Times (or your local newspaper) every day.  The news affects your work environment and you need to be aware of what is going on both for office conversation and work in general.
  4. Keep politics light: We are in an election year so there will be a lot of controversy over politics.  As an intern, I would refrain from engaging too deeply in politics or political discussions with your co-workers.  If you are asked, feel free to discuss and lightly defend your political preferences, BUT do not engage too deeply in a office debate on politics.  Remember, someone in the office is on both sides of the debate.  As an intern, it is best to steer clear!

The Rules on Grabbing Coffee

Having coffee is essential to a successful career.  Meeting someone for coffee or a meal is a great way to make new contacts or reconnect with friends, colleagues and connections.

There are rules for a coffee meeting that are important to be aware of for successful networking:

  1. If you are asking someone else for coffee, the other person should pick a place and time convenient for him or her.
  2. Be on time.  Obvious I know.
  3. Offer to buy coffee for the other person.
  4. Pick a table or location where it is easy to hear the other person.  Tables in the middle of Starbucks or near the barista can be extremely noisy.
  5. DO ask for advice.  Everyone loves to talk about him or herself, tell you their story and provide advice.
  6. DON’T ask for referrals to people.  Generally, a person offers to make a referral.  A referral is currency.  People tend to make referrals for people who are strong connections where making a referral is helpful to his or her relationship with the other person.  A cold referral is meaningless and often puts the person you are having coffee with in an awkward position.
  7. DON’T ask people whom you don’t have a deep relationship with for referrals to investors.  It doesn’t work.  If you are raising money, get referrals from people who know you well, mentors, investors in your company, board members or company advisors.  If the person you meet likes you OR likes the concept of your company, they will offer to make introductions to investors during or after your meeting.

There are probably others and I will keep updating this over time.  Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below.


How I Keeping Learning

I was meeting with a friend of mine and we compared iPhones to see what apps we each used.  We started talking about what we do every week to stay current and learn.  One of my first managers Steven Fisch at CS First Boston told me to read the first section of the Wall Street Journal every day.  At a minimum, I should read the “What’s News” on the left column of the front page of the journal.
Now, twenty years later, here is a run down of what I read, listen to, and use every week to stay current:




2016-06-10 21.53.50


Are You Chained to Your Marketplace?

Geekwire published an insightful article on the challenges of tethering to any online marketplace, as booking decline for homeowners while Expedia makes changes at HomeAway. Marketplaces like Zillow, Trulia, HomeAway, & AirBNB can be a real boon for small businesses, but can quickly changes the rules, challenging a business’ revenue and profit.
Any thoughts on the for-sale real estate vertical or other sharing economy businesses?

Hustle, Not Muscle: The Key to Lifelong Success

This blog post was originally published by on ActiveRain.

Has anyone with true hustle ever failed?  Have ever you met or known anyone
who hustled and did not achieve their goals?  Me neither.

I was recently asked to speak on a panel to MBA’s from the University of Utah talking about Seattle, technology and entrepreneurship.  We had a GREAT panel of speakers: Kevin Nakao of MeritShare, WhitePages, RealNetworks; Will O’Brien from Big Fish Games & TrialPay; Edward Yim from ClassifiedAds and Blue Moon Ventures, and Meredith Turner from PitchBook and WhitePages.

Much of the panel was the standard stuff – how did you end up in Seattle, how does Seattle compare to Silicon Valley, and what is the hiring environment like?  Inevitably you get down to the question of: what advice do you have for finding a job or for life in general?

Down the line, every panelist gave the same answer: HUSTLE.

It is very rare to put five people on a panel and they all agree that pure and simple hustle and effort are the keys to success.  Kevin gave an example of how he broke into the music industry by showing up in LA, knocking on doors and working for free, until someone gave him a job.  Will talked about how he managed to open up the “London” office for his former consulting company by cold calling companies in the UK until one of them listened to his pitch.  He landed a $15m engagement from this UK company, which ended up being the largest consulting project for his employer.  Edward talked about raising a search fund out of business school by asking people he did not know for money to go buy a company.   Hustle is at the heart of every example.
When I think about my own career, I would say hustle and fear are a powerful combination.  Throw in serendipity or luck and you have a recipe for success.  As the CTO of my former company Bio Architecture Lab Yasuo Yoshikuni would say, “The more shots on goal you have, the more you score.”   When I was CEO of Bio Architecture Lab, we were commercializing a technology to convert seaweed into low cost biofuels and chemicals.  I started with the company in March of 2008.  Shortly thereafter oil prices peaked at $140 per barrel and then crashed below $60 per barrel, making it that much harder to commercialize new clean technologies at a price competitive with oil.   Simultaneously, Lehman Brothers failed and the financial crisis ensued, taking the entire financial system with it, making it even harder to raise financing for a speculative cleantech venture with unproven technology.

The fear of not raising money and having Bio Architecture Lab fail pushed me to be more aggressive in seeking out financing.  Though it wasn’t pretty, we threw immense amounts of spaghetti against the wall to see what would stick.  We continued to speak with venture capitalists.   Additionally, we sought out commercial partnerships and government grants.  AND we looked internationally when things looked bleak in the US.  In the end, we ended up raising $8m in venture capital from Norway, Chile and the US, we raised $12m in government grants from the US and Chile, AND we raised $15m in a commercial partnerships with Statoil & DuPont.  All in all, we raised $35m in financing (only $8m of which was dilutive from venture capital), in the WORST financial market in history.

Though luck played a big role, hustle was our muse and fear was our motivator.  We spoke with 120 venture capital firms to get three yes’s.  Similarly, we spoke with any oil or chemicals company willing to speak with us and applied for every government grant possible, even in Chile.

In the title of the blog, I talk about “Hustle, Not Muscle.”  Many times, we get very used to resting on our laurels or the success of our last job or education.  Every now and again, each one of us has a moment, generally when interacting with someone younger than us, when crudely we think, “Do you know who I am?”

Just like lifting weights, we can become really good or skilled at a very narrow competency or skill set.  We can become blind to competition or major changes happening in the industry.  That young, inexperienced person who has no idea who you are is going to want it more than you and they are going to OUT-HUSTLE you to the prize.

Yes, you may be a twenty year veteran of the industry, but times are a changing my friends.  There will always be someone who wants it more and is willing to work harder to get it.

At the same time, behind every success is a successful person with HUSTLE.

Work hard.  Throw lots of spaghetti against the wall.  A few strands will stick.  Those few strands can make all the difference in life and a career.

(I was hiking in Lynn Canyon outside of Vancouver and came across this memorial bench to Philippa Ellaway who said, “Running is the greatest metaphor for life: you get out of it, what you put into it.”  So true, so true.  I had to Google Philippa Ellaway when I got home.  She sounds like she was an amazing woman.)

Should Everyone Join A Start-up? Freakonomics Podcast on Rock Bands

Del Fuego’s & Tom Petty

Great Freakonomics episode on joining a rock band and being successful. Very similar to tech start-ups ironically.

Zanes, “I think that the music business is best for those who have a capacity to weather a chain of disappointments. You know, ’cause if you can only handle one, you should probably go work at the florist, you know?”

Visiting the Amazon Book Store at Seattle’s University Village

I visited the NEW Amazon book store in Seattle’s University Village shopping center.  I have to admit, I was pretty underwhelmed by the experience.  It felt … well… like a book store, specifically a small Barnes & Noble bookstore.  The middle of the store featured Amazon’s consumer electronics like the Kindle, Fire and Alexa.  I was expecting or hoping for a lot more of the future of reading and literature and less of the actual books.  Yes, Amazon is using their data, reviews and ratings to select and merchandise the inventory in the store, but the store did not capture my imagination of the what the future will hold similar to an Apple store or [gasp] a Microsoft store.

But the Apple store was not built in a day.

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Pictures from the Amazon Store in Seattle
Pictures from the Amazon Store in Seattle

2015-11-04 10.17.06

Stop Budgeting and Start Planning!


Originally Posted on ActiveRain

It’s that time of year again: BUDGETING

Executives and business managers around the world are TRAPPED in conference rooms trying to create plans and budgets for the upcoming year.  And then they need to revise and rationalize their budgets after review by the CFO.  And then they need to revise and rationalize their budgets again after review by the CEO.

Rinse and repeat.  Rinse and repeat.

Why are all “budgeting” processes largely a waste of time?  Finance teams and executive team need to think about continuous strategic planning, instead of budgeting.

What do I mean?

The current budgeting exercise is a pure unadulterated tragedy of the commons.   I, as an exectuive,  throw my full budget requests into the pot as there is limited personal downside to my requesting more budget so that I or my people work less or I have greater probability of hitting my objectives.   In a company, there is limited upside in executives or managers doing more with less.  I have never seen a business manager say “increase my revenue target, ‘cause I have a lot of gas in the tank.”  Even if the CEO or CFO keep the revenue forecast flat, I guarantee that executives would start coaching the numbers down.  It’s just human nature.

The CEO and CFO of a company need to be excellent at strategic planning.  “Budgeting” should be happening everyday and there should never be a budgeting cycle where executives have a free pass to reset their expense budgets and increase headcount.

So how does the CEO and CFO move from budgeting into strategic planning:

1) Back of the Envelope Model: The CEO should maintain a back of the envelope financial model for the company.  It should not be more than 20 lines in Excel.  It should clearly communicate to every executive and employee what the key levers for the business are to achieve an aggressive revenue target.  If the CEO cannot communicate this, it is likely he or she  needs to work harder to be crisper with his strategy and how the business model works.

2) Look at Investments, Not Expenses: Every dollar of increased expenses need to be viewed as an investment with a return on investment.  Too often, managers argue to increase expenses without justifying a financial return to the business.  Any time an increase in expenses hits the CFO’s desk, the CFO should quickly understand the return on that investment in a dollar metric.  For example, the return on investment for adding a sales person, a marketing manager or an engineer should be easily understood in a common language.  That language is a simple return on investment calculation – dollars returned to the business for dollars invested by the business.   That means for every incremental dollar being spent, you should have a strong perspective on the financial return on those dollars.  The entire company should share in this mindset.

3) Aggressive Accountability: Executives and hiring managers should be held accountable to justify the return on investment for ther headcount and their expenses.  This is a really unusual thing to say and it rarely happens.  The CEO and CFO should be pushing their executives and their managers on the financial return and the investments they are making every day in their business.   The CFO should be challenging the CEO and other executives based on the underlying drivers and unit economics of the business.  The CFO should create a culture where getting resources should be reasonably hard for the company.  The CFO should be pushing managers to be creative and forcing the discussion whether we should be doing certain activities and what must fall off the plate.

Every dollar spent must be a CONSCIOUS decision.

Every dollar a company spends should be thought of an INVESTMENT, not an expense.

Once your company moves to investing from expensing, then you can move from budgeting to true planning.