Tonasket Schools at full enrollment, turning kids away

Has no room for students from other districts

Tonasket School District is having to turn away students from out of district, as classes are filling up fast. Enrollment was at 1,176 as of Tuesday, Sept. 6, up at least fifty kids from last year.

“We will definitely hit our budget of 1,100 kid,” said TSD Superintendent Steve

McCullough. The official count date is Wednesday, Sept. 7.

Reporting at the August 28 school board meeting, Elementary Principal Jeremy Clark said the elementary school was within one student of closing first grade, and the fifth and second grades have a wait list of five or six students. “I think it is a reflection of great things happening in TSD. People are excited to get here,” said Clark.

With enrollment so high, the schools are closed to out of district students in order to hold openings for in-district students. New Middle School Principal Kristi Krieg reported having to turn away an out of district transfer student who later came back with a Tonasket address. She said

another student, a sixth grader who came to Monday’s (August 26) Open House was sorely disappointed.

“My heart broke when her eyes welled up when she heard she couldn’t get in, but my goal is not to be teaching in the hallways,” said Krieg.

New High School Principal Brian Ellis said the high school numbers were up to 343 as of August 26, and “they’re still rolling in. We are going to have to find a place for all these kids. If the middle school and elementary school are bulging, they are going to be in the high school soon enough,” said Ellis.

The Outreach Program is at a historical high this year with 70 kids enrolled, compared to last year’s 35, and Tonasket Choice High School is at 33 this year.

“Our numbers are the highest they have been since I started teaching seven years ago,” said Chelsea Freeman. “We normally enroll 28 to 30 students.”

A new webpage detailing plans for an upcoming Facilities Bond is now available on the school district’s website at After ongoing bond committee meetings and community input, the bond is set to remain at $9,995,911 and will include expansions to make room for the burgeoning population. In the sports complex, the track resurfacing project was taken off in order to keep the bond under $10 million.

“We will set aside money to do that in the next couple of years as a maintenance project,” said McCullough.

Board member Lloyd Caton voiced concern that the middle school upgrade proposed in the facilities improvement package will still be a tight fit.

“This is meant as a bare bones project, and we will still be tight,” agreed McCullough. “Where will we be in two years when construction starts? That is some of the conversations the bond committee is having. We are going to do everything we can to make this the most salable to the community.”

TSD Assistant Business Manager Bobbi Catone reported having a cash flow balance nearly double that of a year ago.

“We have a general fund balance of $1.5 million, and we expect to end the year with that as we are not expecting anything drastic to come through,” said Catone. “That is nearly double, or $750,000 more money than we had at the end of July last year.”

The balance is nearly $1 million over the three year average.

“I would have to concur with External Business Manager Trisha Shock on how well we are doing,” said Catone.

Board Member Lloyd Caton said it was a credit to “the work we have done in the last two and a half years to get things on track and better accounted for.”

“We are improving our inner controls and management of our budgets,” said Catone. “We are all very transparent with what we are doing. The communication is there and the plan is being set forth for the future.”

This was despite July’s Accounts Payable being almost $130,000 more than last year, with nearly $90,000 going out to pay for cameras on buses and the repaving of the parking lot at the bus garage.

Other good news includes a fix on middle school/high school roof, which has been leaking for “20 years, off and on,” according to Mike Larson of the maintenance department, despite the complete membrane being redone two years ago. McCullough said Larson and Maintenance Superintendent John Verbeck took it upon themselves to do a lot of research over the summer and purchased a large roofing paint sprayer to apply sealant.

“They will do the work themselves so we can be sure it is done right, and they are both pretty confident they’ve got the problem solved,” said McCullough.

“Since it’s conception we have always had a leak. What we did was good stuff. I won’t say it won’t ever leak again, but now we will be on a three-year plan and within the next six years everything will be coated two times,” said Larson, adding that the majority of the work was done over the summer, when they can get the best adhesion.

“We are working to save the taxpayers money,” Larson said.

Verbeck will be retiring next month after a long career with the school district.

Middle School Track Coach and Elementary Reading Specialist Jamie Portwood is taking a one year leave of absence, and school bus driver Georgia Nelson resigned this year.

The board approved hiring Jack Denison as Transportation Supervisor, Erin Williams as a sixth grade ELE/Art Teacher, Sonya Bickel as a part time Outreach Teacher and Dean Manring as a high school night shift Custodian. The hiring of the new staff was first discussed in executive session at the request of board member Joyce Fancher.

“There were questions about the process of hiring one of the individuals, and questions about some protected information can come out in those executive sessions,” said McCullough.

The board also approved the teacher contract, typically renegotiated every three years, after discussing it in executive session.

“There were definitely some changes from last year,” said McCullough. “Teachers received an increase of two and a half days of pay. Part of that is a Responsibility Day and another is a District Training Day.”

Both new principals reported a great start to the new school year.

Ellis said he was excited about the four new high school teachers. “Whoever is on the hiring committee, they did a good job. The four new ones hired, it was a homerun. The kids are especially excited about Mr. Sant and his art class,” said Ellis.

Along with High School Art Teacher Tyler Sant, new this year are Carolyn Behrend, Foreign Language; Casey Haely, Resource and Stirling Headridge, English Language Arts.

At Monday evening’s (August 26) Open House, Behrend said she will be teaching German.

“I moved here from Monroe and I love it here,” said Behrend. “The people are so friendly, and there is no traffic.”

The German language program is new to Tonasket, so Behrand said she would be teaching German I, and that she also speaks a little Spanish.

Ellis said Carl Perkins grant money left over from last year was used to purchase computers for Elizabeth Moore’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) classroom. Moore said the new computers will most certainly be a big help to the program.

“Career and Technical Education is much more than just one class,” said Moore. At the high school, Agriculture Education taught by Mr. Deebach, Business Education taught by Mrs. McCormick, and Family and Consumer Sciences Education taught by Moore, make up the CTE program.

“Each program has a Student Leadership Component that is both part of each class and extracurricular. FFA is part of Agriculture Education, FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) is part of Business Education and FCCLA (Family, Career and Community Leaders of America) is part of Family and Consumer Sciences Education,” said Moore. “Career exploration and acquisition of career skills are big parts of what we do.”

Ellis said he was looking into how best to spend a grant from College Spark. After attending an Agile Minds Conference with a program focused on Intensive Algebra, Ellis said he was considering implementing the program for geometry students as well.

Middle School Principal Kristi Krieg said her year was also off to a great start.

“For a first year principal, this has been an amazing two days. This is a great community to come into,” said Krieg, adding that she was impressed with the way staff rallied around a new teacher who was also new to the area.

Clark said the elementary school was working towards student-led conferences, which would sharing with parents Leadership Notebooks developed by the Leadership Team that included sections about the student, their personals goals, achievements and celebrations.

Clark said staff were also looking into a new program modeled after the Watchdog Program to bring dads into the school and increase parent involvement.

Clark also stressed that with congestion at the parking lot during pick up and drop off, parents should not leave vehicles unattended and parked in front of the doors.

Krieg said she would be enforcing a closed campus at the middle school, with students expected to come inside as soon as they arrived.

“Once they show up at school, they need to come into the building immediately,” said Krieg, adding that she had blocked off her schedule between 8-8:30 a.m. to help manage that.

McCullough reported a new camera system installed over the summer to be up and running.

“I have the ability to pull up cameras in every building on my computer,” said McCullough. “It is very clear and usable, and works very well.”

McCullough also reported funding for the bus route has changed, with just block funding now available.

“Special requests will only be granted to students with an I.E.P. (Individualized Education Plan),” said McCullough. The board approved the change, which will be added to the policy manual.