TSD to consider 8th graders in high school athletics

As 2B school, Tonasket would join others, including Oroville and Liberty Bell, with that policy

TONASKET – Eighth graders may soon be eligible to participate in some high school sports in the Tonasket School District as the school board is considering a proposal outlined by Athletic Director Kevin Terris at the board’s Monday, May 12, meeting.

As Terris outlined, schools in the class 2B an 1B ranks as defined by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association may play eighth graders at the high school level in sports that are not offered at the middle school/junior high level, or to salvage high school programs that suffer from a lack of participation.

Tonasket will be a 2B school for the next two-year cycle. The Tigers’ athletic teams have been Class 1A (playing the likes of Cashmere, Chelan, and other larger schools) but changes in the way the WIAA determines its classifications dropped Tonasket to a classification of smaller schools, despite not actually losing enrollment.

Terris explained how this happen in response to a question from board member Catherine Stangland.

“We’ve been a 2A school, a 1A school and now a 2B school,” he said. “We’ve gone from four to six classifications over the past several years… Two major reasons for the change this year: Schools at the bottom of the list that have limited programs… those students are not counted in the schools when they set up the divisions. The other piece is that alternative school students are no longer counted regardless of whether they participate in your program or not.”

The change means that instead of competing in league and state competitions against schools with as many as 800 high school students (such as Quincy) in 1A, Tonasket will be one of the largest 2B schools in the state. Okanogan and Brewster are other area teams dropping down in classification this year.

Terris said he surveyed other area 2B schools and found that most allow eighth grade participation at some level. Oroville and Liberty Bell have allowed participation in both team and individual sports for at least the past couple years; Okanogan intends to allow it as they drop down as well; Lake Roosevelt and Manson allow participation in individual sports. Kettle Falls, which has bumped between 2B and 1A in recent WIAA cycles, has not allowed eighth grade participation and Brewster didn’t respond to Terris’s queries.

Terris proposed that the district allow full eighth grade participation in both individual and team sports that do not offer middle programs.

“If we do have a feeder program and salvaging a team impacts a middle school program, my recommendation is to not allow that,” he said. “I do not want to destroy middle school programs to to save a JV program.”

Programs likely affected would include boys and girls soccer, tennis, baseball and softball. Cross country, football, volleyball, basketball, wrestling and track all have established middle school programs that wouldn’t be altered.

“Nearly every school we will be competing against is allowing it,” Terris noted, “and I’m for balanced competition.”

The board decided to consider Terris’s recommendation, citing the need to get some community feedback, especially if there were community (non-school) sponsored programs that would be affected by the change.

The decision would need to be made at the next school board meeting to allow for fall sports signups to proceed before school gets out in a few weeks.

Strategic planning

The second round of Thoughtstream surveys have been released, and the board reviewed the progress of the first round of the district’s internet-based attempt to gather the community’s thoughts on the district’s direction.

The original survey was sent out to the district’s database of approximately 500 emails; they received 144 responses. Respondents are able to forward the survey to friends or post the link to social media sites, which the district is encouraging.

Superintendent Paul Turner said that the information gleaned from the surveys would be available for use during strategic planning sessions he was setting up for late June.

“I’m hoping we’ll have some good data to go over,” Turner said. “We’ve had a lot more responses to this than we’ve had for one (a survey) in the past.”

Stangland and board member Lloyd Caton expressed concern that the online survey may not be reaching community members in oulying areas.

“When we were looking at strategic planning we were looking at having more than one community meeting, especially further out in the district,” she said. “I asked a few people if they’d gotten this that I would have thought would have gotten it that did not… The kind of information you get from this is different than you get from going out and talking to people or from a different kind of survey.”

The link to the survey can be found at http://www.tonasket.wednet.edu/pages/tonasketSD/ThoughtStream

Hiring updates

The board approved recommendations to hire Andie Wommack (high school Ag CTE teacher); Kathryn Abrahamson (elementary counselor); Brittany Lawrence (second grade teacher); J.J. Riley (high school history teacher); Breanne Hanson (high school English teacher); JoAnn Huber (middle school food service clerk); and Stephanie Vassar (“3 hour” technology secretary). It also approved the resignations of Ryan Pilkinton (assistant high school football coach) and Vicki Gallaher (assistant cook).

The board also received an Elementary School Improvement updated from Principal Jeremy Clark, Special Education Director Liz Stucker, kindergarten teacher Kim Baker (writing) and paraprofessional Brittany Lawrence (DIBELS).

The Tonasket School Board next meets on Tuesday, May 27 (one day later than usual due to Memorial Day).