Passions high over proposed TSD vocational program change

Issue back on agenda for March 25 meeting

TONASKET – A proposed change to the Tonasket School District’s vocational program brought out a full house to the Monday, March 11, school board meeting. Defenders of the current program – family consumer science – asked the school board not to approve a proposal by superintendent Paul Turner and high school principal Jeff Hardesty to make a switch to agricultural science, which they say would provide more offerings that students wish to take, meet new state standards for biology and provide additional flexibility in scheduling as the district tries to return to a full school day.

Turner and Hardesty presented data that showed both a low number of students participating in the family consumer science program as well as students being turned away from the current, highly-successful agricultural science/FFA program. They also said that it the newer program would more adequately address STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) needs in the district.

Supporters of the program, including a number of students, offered a passionate defense of the value of the current program and discussed how it had had a positive impact on their lives. Vocational teacher Liz Moore described the various facets of the program and said that it easily meet STEM guidelines.

Though the proposed program change was an action item on the agenda, the board unanimously voted to table to table the topic until the March 25 meeting in order to study information provided by the program’s backers and garner more public opinion. Board member Catherine Stangland said that the board had received more letters about the possible shift than any single topic she could remember.

The March 25 meeting will begin at 7:00 p.m. (a half hour earlier than the usual Daylight Saving Time schedule of 7:30) and lead off with a public hearing.