School board grapples with policies, hears reports

TONASKET – The Tonasket School Board discussed the intricacies of many of the policies it is revamping at its meeting Monday, Nov. 27, and heard a number of reports.

It also was the final board meeting for Patti Baumgardner, whose 11 years of service was celebrated with a pre-meeting dinner and a plaque awarded at the beginning of the meeting by superintendent Paul Turner.

“It has been a tremendous education for me to be here,” Baumgardner said. “I am astounded by the variety of work we were involved in – some of it interesting, some of it mundane, some of it frustrating …

“The work I enjoyed most … was when I was trying to learn how people really do learn, and working at ways to support our teachers to teach in those ways …

“My conviction is it’s the teachers and classroom practices that really make the difference. For a long time I thought we were searching for the right key, and later I came to realize we were acquiring a key ring, and it has to hold a myriad of ways to unlock all the doors that we’re confronted with when we’re trying to educate every student.

“I am grateful. I thank all of you for your work and your commitment to carry on.”

The board dealt with a number of the 3000 series of policies being revised as part of the year-long project to update the district’s entire body of policies and procedures.

First readings of policies 3510 (ASB) and 3515 (student incentives) were approved, though high school principal Jeff Hardesty said that the associated procedures will likely need to be overhauled.

“We were told during our audit that student funds cannot be used as incentives for academic purposes,” Hardesty said. “But the definitions we were given were nebulous and contradictory. Thankfully we have money we can use for that elsewhere, but the procedures will need to be rewritten.”

Second and final readings for policies 3232 (stipulating that students are not required to answer certain types of personal questions on surveys) and 3416 (medications) were approved unanimously.

Policy 3223 (freedom of assembly) was passed with an amendment, based on Hardesty’s recommendation, that allows district officials to designate the time and place of peaceful demonstrations.

“It’s important that we make sure these are done safely,” Hardesty said.

The policy also stipulates that the right to assemble must occur without the disruption of the educational process.

Policy 3110 (conditions on accepting new students) was approved, with an amendment that any students aged 21 or over can be accepted based not only upon their own needs, but also as appropriate to the needs of other students.

Policy 3141 (conditions on accepting non-resident students) was approved with an amendment that the district has the right to not accept a student that experienced significant attendance issues in another district. The district will seek a legal opinion on the conditions set forth before any final approval of the policy.

Second readings of 3207 (harassment and bullying) and 3414 (requiring parents to complete a student medical history form or sign a waiver absolving the district of liability) were also approved.

The most significant reports of the evening came from Turner and the three building principals, who gave an overview of each school’s test scores and strategies for improving them.

“It is important to remember our district academic goals, our present status, and what the different buildings are doing to improve,” Turner said. “At our December workshop we can use this for your probing questions and dialogue about this.”

(Further information on this report will be provided in next week’s issue.)

Melody Wolen’s ASB report included the fact that the Veterans Day coin drive raised $260 for the Legacy Project; the FCCLA (Family, Career and Community Leaders of America) provided coffee and cookies for the high school’s Veterans Day assembly, helped with child care during parent/teacher conferences and set up a recycling program; the T Club sold 30 pairs of shorts during their annual fundraiser, which should be delivered around Christmas; the FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) sent seven students to a regional conference in Wenatchee; the FFA successfully put on the Tolo dance on Nov. 19; and winter sports begin this week.

Agriculture teacher and FFA coach Matt Deebach reported on his parliamentary procedure team’s trip to Indianapolis in October, where six Tonasket girls earned national runner-up honors with their performance.

“We’d like to thank all the teachers, the parents, the community members, you as the board, the principals Mr. Hardesty and Mr. Tyus put on a great assembly for the kids last week,” Deebach said. “When the kids saw all the emails and articles, because they weren’t here, it was great to send all that back to them.”

Transportation director Jeff Yeckel shared his ridership numbers from the official count taken Sept. 12-14, but noted that October numbers had dropped off by about 100 from their September levels.

He added the recently re-instituted Siwash route was going as planned, with about five children being transported on a consistent basis.

Yeckel also demonstrated the route-planning and tracking software currently in use.

Turner reported that enrollment dropped by 13 students to an official count of 1,155.84 students in the district. The average for the year stands at 1,162.

Expenditures for October were approximately $142,095 for the general fund and $16,190 for ASB. Fund balances stood at approximately $874,198 in the general fund, $729,280 in debt service, $173,267 in ASB and $239,780 for transportation.

Overall budget numbers stood at $994,214.07 received and $938,467.73 spent.

“Both of those are in the 16th percentile,” Turner said, “so we’re running about on track.”

There were 14,296 lunches purchased in October, which was consistent with 2010 numbers. Breakfasts, however, were at 6,451, which was down 350 from a year ago.

Also, longtime volleyball coach Nellie Kirk’s retirement from coaching was accepted by the board.

“I have enjoyed these 40 years teaching and coaching in the Tonasket school district,” Kirk said in a statement read at the meeting. “I would like to thank the district for all of its support over the years; I would not have chosen to be anywhere else…

“I did not have the win loss record I would have wanted, but I know I have influenced many athletes to be better players and adults. Thank you again for the privilege of coaching in the Tonasket School District.”