Tonasket school board feeling high fuel prices

TONASKET – The air-conditioned school board room was the place to be while temperatures scorched outside last Monday night.

The board had their only June meeting and covered a full agenda, including an hour-long, closed-door executive session.

Tonasket Middle School was recognized as one of 48 state-wide by the Special Programs and Federal Accountability at the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction for a Title I improvement award, recognizing substantial gains in WASL test results. The award includes $3,500 to contribute to efforts to increase student academic success. The award was made through No Child Left Behind, according to Superintendent Randy Hauff. The letter was from Bob Harper in the OSPI office.

The OSPI also recognized Tonasket as a district with a disproportional level of racial, ethnic, language or special education numbers.

The board approved Hauff applying for the Highly Capable Grant, which would be used for various district programs across all three schools.

The board also approved raising school meal prices.

Eric Nelson addressed the board in seeking the raise.

“It’s been a couple of years since we had an increase,” Nelson said. “Everything’s going up – food, oil, corn. With flooding and droughts it doesn’t look like it’s going to come down again any time soon.”

Nelson proposed raising lunch prices 25 cents and breakfast prices 15 cents.

The school lunch program is one that the district seeks to keep even, said Hauff.

“That’s one area out of our control,” he said. The new prices would still keep Tonasket below the average in the state and on the conservative side in the county, Hauff said.

The district served a combined 116,534 meals during the 2007-2008 school year.

The board approved the rate changes.

They also approved several personnel decisions, including hiring four new teachers and four coaches. There will be a new high school softball coach come the 2009 season.

The board approved a field trip request to attend the Inland Northwest Yearbook camp in Spokane in August. Three students and one adviser will attend.

Plans were approved to convert part of the campus transportation building into restrooms for student and faculty use. Several elementary school classes will be moving to portables near the district offices. The portables lack restrooms and the transportation building is already equipped with plumbing and electricity so it will convert easily.

A bi-yearly audit also came back with no problems.

One new issue for the school district is familiar to anyone with a vehicle. Rising fuel costs have driven up their gas prices, even as gallon usage has declined.

Diesel is up an average of 98 cents per gallon from its cost last year, a 36.4 percent increase. The district spent an extra $20,000 on diesel and used about 2,000 gallons less than in previous years. No action was taken.

Board member Catherine Stangland closed the regular portion of the meeting by reading a statement honoring each of her fellow board members.

“All five of us have different gifts we bring to the board,” Stangland said, then identified the strengths she most appreciated in each.

The most powerful part of the board was what they are together, she said.

“We are completely united in our mission to serve students,” Stangland said.

The board then went into an hour-long executive session.