Gratitude and Gratefulness








Dear Supporters,

Thank you for your steadfast belief in me, your kind endorsements, generous donations, glowing letters to the editor and just in time coffee runs! I am grateful to each of you for our deep conversations, problem solving sessions and honest dialogues. Your passion for the children of our community is a driving force that contributes to excellence in education in LWSD.

I am extremely grateful for the thousands of hours of volunteering our community has invested in our public schools. I appreciate continued community support of ballot measures that provide our children with the necessary technology, programs and space to learn and thrive in a global economy.

Thanks to the combined efforts of kids, parents, LWSD staff and community, the following have been accomplished over the past four years:

  • Graduation rate increased to 94.4%
  • 1:1 laptop ratio for students funded
  • 44 new brick and mortar classrooms added (in past two years)
  • 4th Meritorious Budget Award earned
  • New pathways to graduation incorporated
  • Fully inclusive preschool program launched
  • Academy for Creating Excellence started
  • Diversity in hiring increased
  • Department of Equity and Family Engagement created
  • 24/7 tech support for families & staff implemented
  • Partnered w/ 13 orgs to provide mental health services
  • Began Multi-Tiered Systems of Support
  • Increased advanced course offerings
  • Initiated Positive Behavior Intervention
  • Established an online school
  • Staffed onsite public health response with LWSD employees
  • Provided Vaccine clinics on school sites
  • PCR testing opened on 4 school campuses
  • Received 2021 Board of Distinction award

I remain grateful to students who continue to inspire me with their critical thinking, creative presentations, accomplishments, achievements, and advocacy.  I can’t wait to see what they do next!

This website will continue to be centered on kids and education as I hone my focus on student mental wellness & academic supports, equity in communication & achievement, and the prevention of substance abuse. Stay tuned!

As I bring my thankfulness to a close, I invite you to join me in support of incoming board member, Leah Choi. I had the pleasure of spending many hours with Leah at the WSSDA conference and feel she is a great addition to the LWSD Board of Directors!

Best wishes to all for good health and happiness.

Never stop learning,





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Multi-Tiered Systems of Support

Note: This article was originally published in the Lake Washington PTSA Council newsletter on September 20th  LWPTSA Currents – September 2021 

Cassandra Sage, LWSD School Board Director, District Three

Welcome to the 2021-2022 school year! Fall is my favorite season in large part because school begins once again and the excitement of learning and connecting with others is at the forefront. Whether your student is online or in person, academic and social opportunities renew as we come together, no matter what space we are in.

Many LWSD staff and board members worked throughout the summer in preparation for this new year of learning, focusing on what students need to advance academically, with strong supports in place for emotional wellbeing. You will no doubt hear the term MTSS spoken at curriculum night, sent in email and posted to social media.

Multi-Tiered Systems of Support is a framework that LWSD piloted in the 2018-2019 school year to provide academic, social and behavioral supports to students on a more individual basis. Kids are considered on a personal level to determine what additional assistance they may need in order to succeed in school. In the 2019-2020 school year, the MTSS framework expanded to more schools in the district and this year all schools are utilizing this process to identify areas students may need extra help, to address any learning loss resulting from recent disruptions to education. The framework also supports socio-emotional wellbeing and addresses behavioral challenges if they surface.

Our district’s mission is “Each student will graduate prepared to lead a rewarding, responsible life as a contributing member of our community and greater society”. In support of this mission, the board [has adopted] a policy on anti-racism, non-discrimination, equity and inclusion. The MTSS framework is one of the new tools that will give us information not just on academic progress but also on how our students are experiencing their school environment and whether it feels welcoming, safe and inclusive. If we focus solely on academic results, we only see data on achievement gaps. Incorporating MTSS data gives us additional insight on how to address opportunity and achievement gaps more proactively.

Best wishes to students, staff and parents,



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Social Emotional Learning – What is it?

      STEAM Night Mark Twain, 2019

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is a term we hear with increasing frequency as it relates to student well-being. If districts have not been practicing it, they are now required to implement it in some form in order to receive federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds (Cares Act funds for schools).

As outlined by the Lake Washington School District, SEL is a process by which students learn social and self-awareness, management, engagement and advocacy.

First, the “self” portion – SEL helps students identify personal strengths, manage emotions and deal with stress in constructive ways. Students are taught to see themselves as capable and set goals to self-monitor on the path to achievement. They work on self-advocacy, constructive decision making and problem solving.

The “social” part of SEL includes recognizing similarities in others and respecting differences, making constructive choices in social interactions and demonstrating strategies to productively contribute to school and community.

What Does a Lesson on SEL Look Like?

LWSD uses the Second Step curriculum to implement Social Emotional Learning.

Problem solving story and activity for a 4th grade classroom:

second-step-elementary-digital-g04-u4-17a-handout.pdf (

Lesson for 8th grade SEL on the topic of bullying:

second-step-middle-school-g8-u2-10-student-handout.pdf (

These are just two examples of Social Emotional Learning plans for a classroom. We are all aware of the mental health emergency our children and youth face. Whether students are adjusting to in-person learning or the new online school, social and emotional wellness supports are needed to help students focus on learning through a continued public health emergency.  Some kids were last in school buildings as 3rd graders and have just walked in to 5th grade classrooms. Or imagine an eighth grader stepping foot inside a high school for the first time as a sophomore. From a developmental standpoint, the differences are stark.

As the district assess kids academically and creates plans for them to advance individually, social emotional wellness is an important pathway to achievement.

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Happy Birthday America!

Today we celebrate the passage of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress on July 4th, 1776. The Declaration announces the successful separation of the thirteen colonies from Great Britain and the freedom to move forward as a separate nation. At that time no one would have imagined that Great Britain would go on to become one of our strongest allies.

In the two hundred and forty-five years since the Declaration of Independence was signed people have celebrated the 4th of July in many ways. According to a July 5th, 1777 letter John Adams wrote to his daughter Abigail, “The thought of taking any notice of this day, was not conceived, until the second of this month, and it was not mentioned until the third…” Between the 3rd and the 4th Congress decided to take the day off and John Adams marked the occasion with a meal on the Delaware “frigate”, with the President and members of the Marine Committee. They were saluted with the discharge of thirteen guns. Adams wrote people gathered on the shore “shouting and huzzaing, in a manner which gave great joy to every friend to this country…” But what surprised him later that night as he was “walking the streets for a little fresh air and exercise”, were the candles in nearly every window in the city. “I walked most of the evening, and I think it was the most splendid illumination I ever saw”. Visit the Library of Congress to read the letter in entirety,

Although the 4th of July was not declared a federal holiday until 1941, Americans have celebrated the occasion for nearly two and a half centuries. The Covid-19 pandemic created a pause in some parades and firework displays, but people still found ways to celebrate and pomp and circumstance is beginning to return. Speaking of parades, during the 2017 campaign season, Sage for Schools supporters participated in the Redmond Derby Days parade where I met a relative I never knew I had! The parade entry behind me was a Model A club. Seeing our “Sage” shirts, the driver of the first car got out and asked who the “Sage” was. That driver turned out to be George Sage! Redmond residents may remember him from Sage Electronics where he and his wife, Ila, operated their repair business. All four of their children attended LWSD schools and graduated from Redmond High School. George spends his “retirement” running Owl Auto Electronics and restores antique automobiles. At the time we met, I had lived in the area for 22 years and our paths never crossed. Now we visit and spend holiday time together. He even lets me ride in the front seat!

– What Will You Learn Today?

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Japanese American Heroes

My pre-ordered copy of the latest Daniel James Brown book, Facing the Mountain, arrived the first week of May and I eagerly dug in. I was not taught about Japanese American Exclusion in high school. The administration played F.D.R’s “Day of Infamy” speech over the intercom every December 7th and we learned about the devastating attacks on Pearl Harbor –  but the fact that American citizens of Japanese descent lost their homes, businesses, land, possessions and freedom was glossed over, if it was mentioned at all. Imagine my surprise in Pol-Sci 101 my freshman year of college when I learned what “internment” was.

Last weekend my family went to Bainbridge Island to see the Japanese American Exclusion Memorial. We parked near the Bainbridge Historical Museum and took our bicycles off the rack. Fortunately, the museum is partially re-opened, and we were able to read about the history of the island. Local resident Lilly Kodama shared her story of growing up on a farm near Fletcher Bay and her experience when her family was forcibly removed from the island in 1942, along with other families of Japanese descent. We got on our bikes and pedaled (Bainbridge is not flat!) to Eagle Harbor, site of the Japanese American Exclusion Memorial. Hundreds of origami paper cranes, left by visitors, sway in the wind. The names and ages of those sent to camps are listed, by family. Small rocks have been used to spell words such as “never again” and “remember” and an artistic portrait of a young Japanese woman behind barbed wire adorn the long walkway.  It is a place of quiet respect. In total, 227 members of the Bainbridge community were rounded up and sent to Minidoka in Idaho. Two thirds of the people were American Citizens.

It wasn’t until 1988 that President Reagan apologized to Japanese American people by signing into law the Civil Liberties Act stating “One hundred twenty thousand persons of Japanese ancestry were forcibly removed from their homes and placed into makeshift internment camps,” Reagan said. “This action was taken without trial, without jury. It was based solely on race.”

Bainbridge Island is a 25 minute ferry ride from Seattle. Take your family for the day and ensure the remembrances of another group of American citizens who lost their civil rights due to their ancestry and race.

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“Change Begins with Me”

Serious photo for a somber, serious topic.

In 1984 my high school history teacher mailed my parents and me a letter inviting me to join in a twenty day summer trip to Europe. I tossed it in the trash. I knew we didn’t have the money for such an extravagance. My mom found the letter laying in the wastebasket and asked me what it was about. I shrugged. She asked me how hard I was willing to work to make this opportunity possible.

I scrubbed milking stalls at the dairy farm down the way every weekend, by hand, with a hose and bucket, for months. I baby sat the dairy owners’ kids, made them dinner and cleaned the house whenever possible, for $2.25 per hour. Somehow my parents were able to match earnings, and I found myself on a plane headed to Heathrow with some of my classmates.

I dreamed of Big Ben, La Tour Eiffel, Hofbrauhaus (yes, they let us in with a signed permission slip from a parent), and the birthplace of Mozart. What I didn’t realize was a daytrip to Dachau would be the the most vivid memory I would leave with.

Dachau Gate – June 1984

You can study and read about the Holocaust and be horrified. But when you walk the grounds, stand next to the ovens, visit the grave of thousands unknown, and speak to people who miraculously survived, you are forever changed.

Grave of Thousands Unknown – summer 1984

Dachau is estimated to have seen 200,000 prisoners during the twelve years it operated as a “work” camp. The gate to the entrance still reads: Arbeit Macht Frei – literally translated “Work Makes One Free”, insinuating  that one will find virtue in hard work and good things will happen as a result.  The “work” was torturous. There were 32,000 documented deaths at Dachau during its twelve years of operation.  Dachau was opened in March of 1933. It was liberated by American forces in April of 1945. Maybe you’ve seen black and white photo reel footage of stunned American GI’s as they entered Dachau to see standing skeletons being blown by the wind.

The International Memorial – Dachau, June 1984

Fast forward. It is now 2021. Europe and the United States have been on various levels of lockdown for the past thirteen months. Travel has been restricted; however, Seattle’s Holocaust Center for Humanity offers online opportunities such as “Virtual Lunch and Learn” to continue teaching and telling the story of the Holocaust and much more. For the month of April, lunch time will focus on genocide awareness.

This 2016 photo of my son with speaker Ingrid Steppic was taken during an in person, brown bag lunch event. She shared her family’s story of saving 40 Jewish families in Amsterdam.  Eventually, her father was captured, arrested and sent to Dachau in 1944. I visited forty years later and undoubtedly walked some of his same steps.  As the last survivors of WW II pass, the opportunity to meet someone who lived during the Holocaust also passes. You have the opportunity to hear survivor stories and much more through the Seattle Holocaust Center for Humanity who preserves this for one and all.  Visit virtually at

“Change Begins With Me” -Motto, Seattle Holocaust Center for Humanity


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Cassandra Sage announces her re-election bid to the Lake Washington School District Board of Directors

Contact: Cassandra Sage,

Cassandra Sage announces her re-election bid to the Lake Washington School District Board of Directors

Kirkland, WA: Lake Washington School Board member Cassandra Sage has announced her intent to seek another term and continue advocating for LWSD students and families.

“Every student must have the opportunity to access effective supports to recover academically, socially and emotionally from the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic. As education leaders we need to build upon the Multi-tiered Systems of Support we offer students, regardless of which learning model they are in. We must innovate our approaches to lead students to successful outcomes in a changed world”, Sage stated.

Nationally the pandemic exposed widening gaps in access and achievement across demographics such as race, income, ability and language to name a few. As noted by Cassandra, “The board has been working to create an equity policy to close opportunity and achievement gaps. LWSD had gaps before COVID-19 and has seen them increase during remote learning.  An equity policy at the board level will guide the work of the district as a whole, with accountability measures more clearly defined, leading to an increase in successful outcomes for students.

Sage takes this work to heart as a member of the collective impact network, Eastside Pathways. She devotes time each week to the creation of Spanish language video newsletters that cover district news for both the Lake Washington and Bellevue school districts. Delivered by native Spanish speakers in a culturally relevant manner, the videos offer communication in a meaningful format and allow an opportunity for-two way dialogue.  Director and Co-Founder of Sistema Escolar USA, Liliana Medina, declared, “Special needs and immigrant families have a great advocate in LWSD. Thanks, Cassandra Sage, for your hard work and advocacy for minority groups.”

As legislative representative for the board, Cassandra has spent the past year advocating for student needs in a continuously changing environment. This work entails frequent meetings with elected officials in neighboring districts, local jurisdictions, King County, Washington State and congressional positions. Representative Amy Walen of the 48th LD noted, “Cassandra’s steady, calm leadership throughout the Covid-19 pandemic has helped LWSD re-open schools with safety mitigation in place and student well-being and learning at the forefront.”

Ms. Sage is honored to count the support of parents, students, teachers, community leaders and elected officials in her bid for re-election.  “Now the real work begins. With in-person instruction resuming, we need to prepare students for a world that has been forever altered by the pandemic”, Sage declared.

Cassandra Sage first won election to the LWSD board in 2017 with 62% of the vote.  Prior to her election, Sage served on local PTSA boards and many other community organizations. She is a longtime Kirkland resident, with three LWSD graduates and a current high school student. To learn more, visit


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Community Support

When I filed for office I knew I had the backing of my family, but I had no idea the amount of support I would receive from the community. People that I have volunteered with for the past two decades began asking how they could help. It is humbling, to say the least. A volunteer gives of themselves, because they believe in the cause – they want to make a difference – they have a desire to give back – they want to improve the status quo, etc.

I am truly honored to have the support of volunteers with even more decades of community service behind them than I have. Former LWSD Board Director Jackie Pendergrass is one of those dedicated public servants.

Thank you, Jackie, for your heartfelt letter and support!

Never stop learning,


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Meet Monisha Weerasundara, Sage For Schools Media and Communications Assistant

Sage For Schools is thrilled to have the support of LWSD alumni. We are pleased to introduce Monisha Weerasundara, Media and Communications Assistant.

Monisha is a graduate of Juanita High School’s Class of 2016, and is currently studying Political Science and Law & Society at NYU. At Juanita, she was involved in academic clubs, athletics, and was a student in the Cambridge program. She has worked with children throughout the Lake Washington School District and the Kirkland Boys and Girls Club for almost eight years and is passionate about both education and public policy.

I’m very happy to have Monisha helping on the campaign!

Never stop learning,


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Meet Nate Blanchard, Sage For Schools Field Operations Assistant

Sage For Schools is thrilled to have the support of LWSD alumni. We are pleased to introduce Nate Blanchard, Field Operations Assistant.

Nate is a class of 2017 graduate of the Law, Economics, and Public Policy Bachelor’s Degree, with a minor in Human Rights, at the University of Washington Bothell. In the autumn of 2017, Nate will begin graduate school at UW Bothell in the Master of Arts in Policy Studies program. Afterwards, he hopes to attend UC Berkeley’s school of law. Nate has a strong passion for law and politics, while also being a firm believer in the power of grassroots movements.

I’m very happy to have Nate helping on the campaign!

Never stop learning,


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