Tonasket Schools eye ACA changes

Roof leaks belie engineer’s ‘clean bill of health’

TONASKET – Tonasket School District employees may soon be feeling the full effects of the Affordable Care Act in their pocketbooks, and Superintendent Paul Turner said that he and the district’s various unions are having discussions over ways to mutually minimize those effects, he reported at the Monday, June 26, school board meeting.

“We’re working with the unions and sorting through what all this Obamacare stuff means,” he said. “There will be major effects on everybody, so we’re trying to sort through that as the summer goes on.”

Turner said that a new “player” in the local insurance market may provide some additional options that haven’t been present in the past.

“We did have an inquiry from another insurance company,” he said. “Right now the only option we have is the Washington Education Association Blue Cross in this area. That’s all that’s available, but we got notice today from another company that is looking at addressing the Obamacare issue throughout the valley, not just for schools.

“So we are crossing our fingers on that. We’ll attend that meeting and hopefully we’ll be able to mitigate some of this.”

More from the Supt.

Turner said that a couple of small projects would be completed during the summer to alleviate some of the more pressing needs in the elementary school. He said the pre-school would be moving into what is currently the computer lab (partially due to the ease of adding bathrooms in that part of the building); and a little-used exit in the Kindergarten-1st grade wing would be closed off and the hallway space converted into a reading room.

“The exit is in a place where the traffic doesn’t flow,” he said, adding that the plan had been inspected by the building inspector.

Later in the meeting, the board passed a resolution authorizing the transfer of $67,773 from the debt service fund, which was left over from the bond repayment, to fund the projects.

Turner also updated on the status of the middle/high school roof; he said that an inspection revealed some leakage issues in addition to the damage caused by water during a storm in early June.

“This week we’ll have a contractor take a closer look,” he said. “We’ll take a deeper look at what the problem is; there may be a need – even though our Study of Survey, it received a clean bill of health – to put it onto the bond measure. We found some water pooling under the membrane, so we’ll need to see what needs to be done to solve that problem.”

“You contacted the engineer (that gave the roof a clean bill of health)?” asked board chairman Jerry Asmussen.

“I did, and we had a nice little conversation,” Turner said. “He basically said… if he has to eat a little crow, he’ll have to come up and do that.”

Turner also addressed the school board’s desire to improve lines of communication in outlying areas of the district as they look ahead to attempting to re-run a capital facilities bond measure.

“We have our data from the Thoughstream surveys,” Turner said. “But do we want to make a priority to get out to these outlying areas in the next couple of months?”

Caton pointed out that many of those in the outlying areas don’t have internet service and so would have been unlikely to have participated in the Thoughtstream survey, which was conducted online.

“They’re voters,” he said. “Their concerns and needs need to be listened to as well. They don’t always come to us very well, so I think we need to go to them.”

Board member Ty Olson added that the district needs to avoid sending mixed messages when asking voters for money.

“We have a bunch of people in the community that are pretty upset with the decision to shut these facilities off for the summer that to the folks that have been playing basketball here once or twice a week all year,” Olson said. “The word given to them that folks are concerned they may loiter around the school … The bottom line is, they pay taxes, they have kids in the school system or have come through the system.

“We’re going to go out and ask them to support this thing, but on the other hand tell them we’re afraid they’re going to loiter around, and not let them use the facilities. I think that’s pretty ridiculous.”

Turner said he would look further into that situation as well as setting up meetings with community members to discuss bond issues.

Comings and goings

Resignations accepted at the June 9 and June 23 board meetings included Amy Cheeseman (3rd Grade teacher) and Chasitie Cork (Middle School Title 1 parapro and ASB advisor).

Hirings approved at those two meetings included Anna Munsey (_______); Anitra Atchison (Food Service Clerk); Nathan White (Middle School STEM teacher); Claudia Maldonado (Elementary ELL teacher); Darren Collins (High School Boys Soccer head coach); and Dan Vassar (High School Baseball head coach).

Hired for migrant and bilingual summer school positions were Carol Cooke, Mary Weese, Keven Haney, Norma Gutierrez, Lynda Zandell, Julie Tyus, Martha Wisdom, Tyler Graves and Chad Portwood.

Miscellaneous

Turner reported that the district, for the first time in memory, actually had an uptick in enrollment during June. The district finished the year with 1063 students enrolled and an average for the year of 1066.32 students.

The board approved an increase in pay for substitute teachers to $105 for the upcoming school year and $110 in 2015-16 in an attempt to keep up with neighboring districts. The board had previously approved an increase to $100 and $105 (from $95), but voted to increase that amount after Turner determined that with the longer school day being implemented this fall, the dollars per hour would actually decrease.

At Caton’s request, the board authorized Turner to write a letter to the Washington Department of Transportation, asking that SR-20 from Tonasket Ave. to the city limits (just east of the school property) be designated a no-passing zone.

The board approved the purchase of a financial algebra curriculum (covering personal finance, budgeting, credit, the stock market and more) for third and fourth year high school students, as well asl a separate curriculum for the Elementary Outreach program.

Elementary principal Jeremy Clark reported that the school’s growth numbers (as determined by NWEA testing) were improved, which he attributed to the work done by his staff. Middle school principal Jay Tyus, who arrived at Tonasket at the same time that as current outgoing class of eighth graders, reported significant improvement in that group, especially with its math scores.

“We have 17 kids that aren’t at ‘norm,’” he said. “That first year we had 62. That’s just a snapshot of the great work over time that our team does and I’m appreciative of them.”

Summer schedule

  • The school board approved the following schedule for its summer meetings:
  • Monday, July 14: no meeting;
  • Monday, July 28: Budget hearing, 7:00 p.m., followed by regular meeting at 7:30;
  • Monday, Aug. 11: Regular meeting, 7:30 p.m., work session leading into strategic planning;
  • Tuesday-Wednesday, Aug. 12-13, 7:30-9:00 p.m.: Strategic planning.

About Brent Baker

Brent is a reporter for the Gazette-Tribune. Prior to working at the G-T, he was the sports editor for Sunrise Publishing from 2000-2005 in Michigan. He subsequently owned and operated Buckland Media, a high school sports website, in Michigan until 2010. He and his wife Kim, who have an adult son, moved to Tonasket in 2010. Brent started work at the G-T in 2011.

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