School District to hold off on bond re-run

TONASKET – The Tonasket School Board has every intention of making another attempt at passing a capital improvement bond to fund expansion and upgrades of the school facilities.

When that will happen and what it will look like have yet to be determined.

After two weeks of getting community feedback at the first attempt, which garnered 54 percent of the vote but required 60 percent to pass, the board voted unanimously not to try again in April. A resolution would have needed to be filed by March 7 for the April election; the next potential vote would be August 5.

“I’ve thought about this a lot,” said board member Lloyd Caton. “We have a lot of people here with a lot of input and questions. I would love to run it in April but I don’t think we can get the kind of work done that our constituents are asking for and that we need to do in order to run an intelligent campaign.”

Caton made the motion to not run the bond next month.

“It seems like we need to inform people more of what we are trying to do,” said board member Ernesto Cerrillo. “Some people … don’t know what we are asking.”

Board member Catherine Stangland, who spearheaded the recent campaign that included nearly two dozen community meetings, reluctantly made it a unanimous vote.

“I hate to lose momentum that we had with the people who have been working on it,” she said. “But I do hear what people are saying; they want more informatioin, they want more input, they want more opportunity for consideration of different options.

“I think that would be hard to do between now and April 22, and campaign, so I am prepared to wait.”

“I think if we were half a percent off we could redouble our effort (right away,” said board chairman Jerry Asmussen. “But with where we’re at a later start is more prudent. All we really have to decide tonight is if whether or not to wait.”

Prior to the start of the regular meeting the board hosted a public hearing in which they had asked for further comments about the bond.

In contrast to the previous week, a contingent of backers of the Alternative and Outreach programs spoke to the value of the program, the effects of hosting the program in a portable that was obsolete since the day the school purchased it, and why it needed to be separate from the main school building.

Rob Inlow and Mark McMillan, who have researched the board’s proposed expansion plans, toured facility with superintendent Paul Turner and acted as liaisons with others who have concerns about the project, offered a number of their own recommendations for modifications to the project.

The discussion that followed in the regular meeting didn’t take long.

“My motion was just for not running it in April,” Caton said, emphasizing that it did not mean the board wouldn’t run the bond again at a later date. “We just need more time.”

Highly Capable?

Elementary principal Jeremy Clark discussed the Highly Capable program (a program that provides accelerated learning and enhanced classroom opportunties for advances, or “highly capable,” students) and the fact this year there were a number of changes that amounted to an unfunded mandate.

“The most significant changes are with the identification process,” Clark said.

An approved screening program must be in place, he said.

“It is not an inexpensive process,” Clark said. “There is not additional funding for this. The ESD is working on plans to provide support for districts but nothing is finalized. At this time we are waiting for more information so maybe they can purchase (the screening program in a) bundle for the county or region and we could go to them for a reduced cost for that testing.

“New stipulations for that that will make it a much more complex process.”

Clark said the district would receive about $10,000 for the entire program.

“That is minimal compared to the cost of doing it,” he said.

“So, we’re going to spend more money than we’re going to get to run this,” Asmussen asked.

“Definitely,” Clark said.

“The legislation is very specific,” Turner said. “You can’t opt out; you will do it; you won’t get any money to do it; and this is how you’re going to do it.

“We always gripe about unfunded mandates; this sounds like one to me,” Caton said. “What if we tell them, ‘No?’ … Where does the money come from? Who do we rob (in terms of other district funding) to do this?”

Clark’s report required board approval; after some more discussion, Stangland moved “that we obey the law,” which despite Caton’s remarks did pass unanimously.

Timber dollars

Turner reported that bills in both the State Senate and House of Representatives that would restore timber dollars to rural school districts were “dead.

“There is still going to be a hearing in the Senate Budget Committee,” he added. “If you can still get the budget committee to fund it, it is still alive even if the bills are dead.”

Other items

Turner read a proclamation from Gov. Jay Inslee declaring March 10-14 Classified Employees Week.

The consent agenda included the resignations of boys basketball coach Agustin Pedregon and tennis coach Dave Buccheim.

The school board next meets on Monday, March 10, at 7:00 p.m. in the administration building board room.

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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