Architect on board for Tonasket Schools project

TONASKET – The Tonasket School Board voted Monday, Sept. 8, to accept Superintendent Paul Turner’s recommendation to hire Design West Architects to guide the district through the facilities expansion construction project that still has yet to be funded.

The bond measure intended to fund additional space in school buildings, construction of space to replace the dilapidated Alternative School, as well as upgrade portions of the outdoor athletics facilities, narrowly failed at the ballot box last winter. The board has been meeting with community members to reconfigure the measure before putting it back on the ballot at a date still to be determined.

Turner said that of the eight architects that completed applications, three were interviewed.

Those three – Design West of Pullman, Architects West of Couer d’Alene, ID, and Forte Architects out Wenatchee, rose to the top. Turner said the Design West’s pre-bonding process and philosophy were the deciding factors.

“As we talked with each firm, we had specific questions about pre-bonding,” Turner said. “Bottom line is, we need the bond to move forward and wanted to know what they could do for us.

“Design West was very intentional about that. They even brought a process that was not requested, but they were prepared to discuss that issue. The others referenced it, but that was as far as they went.

He said that one of the firm’s big emphases was helping school boards improve their communication with both staff and community, which was one of the “areas for improvement” that was mentioned in recent surveys conducted by the board.

“They’re very intentional about their plan, and very successful with their pre-bonding work,” Turner said. “It’s a big strength of theirs.”

He said that in talking with superintendents of other districts in the state that used Design West, that reviews were overwhelmingly positive.

“(He was told) they are personable and listened well,” Turner said. “One thing that caught my ear was how (other superintendents said) they are very practical with their design. It looks good, but they recognize the areas they are in and what really needs to be designed, to keep it at a practical level. Another superintendent had them at another district, and like them so well that he brought them to his new district to help with pre-bonding there.”

Debbie Cook from the North Central Education Service District, who was on hand for a separate presentation, added that the Coulee Dam district employed them for the new K-12 complex that was set to open Monday.

Turner said that, if approved, Design West would have someone on hand for the next facilities committee meeting, which was scheduled for Sept. 10.

After some discussion, Turner’s recommendation was unanimously approved by the board.

ESD financial presentation

Cook, Trisha Schock and Dave Arp from the financial services department of the ESD made a presentation of a streamlined financial reporting system that they said was designed to produce information that would be more accessible to the school board.

“Our goal is to provide financial statements that make sense to you,” Schock said. “We have some opportunities for improvement, but there are formatting changes we can do now… that hopefully can provide you guys with a better understanding.”

The board also approved the hiring of Robbie Monroe (Middle School C squad volleyball coach), Christy Caton (Elementary Title I secretary); and Connie Maden (certified substitute teacher).

The school board next meets on Monday, Sept. 29.