TONASKET — Tonasket School Board directors heard goodbyes from a few employees during their May 30 meeting, including retiring Vice Principal and Athletic Director Kevin Terris, who has taken the position of High School Principal at Ritzville. His wife Jody will be teaching at the elementary school there.
Andy Jones, who founded Tonasket's Alternative School 23 years ago, is retiring as outreach director after a record year of 60 students enrolled in the program. Taking over as director of the program is Jeanette Holocher.
“Jeanette is really sharp,” Jones said. “She is an alternative school teacher over on the coast, and every reference she provided really raves about her ability to connect with kids. She is a real pro.”
Jones said this year's program of 60 students was about equally divided between elementary, middle and high school students.
“The program has really opened up, we have a lot of participation from ranching and logging families who really appreciate their kids having that flexibility,” said Jones. “A lot of the students enjoy being out working, especially at the high school level.”
Jones said several parents expressed interest in having their preschool students enroll in kindergarten outreach in the coming year.
“If we do offer it, I would suggest having at least four families, and maybe offer it as a half day program or one day a week,” said Jones.
Saying good-bye to her position as Gear Up Site Director but saying hello to her new position as a third grade teacher is Blair Sant.
“It's bittersweet, I love this job and it's been a real priveledge and honor to get to know these kids, and help them explore their passions and hopefully enroll in secondary education,” Sant said of her Gear Up students. “This year our FAFSA applications and college applications have gone up. I think kids are opening their eyes to the possibilities out there for them.”
Sant said she still serves 2017 THS graduates, keeping track of them through Facebook and texts.
“I see them in the grocery store and connect with them to come and meet with me,” said Sant. “Some have been coming back to fill out FAFSAs after taking a year off.”
Sant said grants for Gear Up funding are written by a “very talented” staff writer at Central Washington University.
“We are crossing our fingers that this fall we get more funding for middle school students,” said Sant.
She said funding from Gear Up this year provided staff professional development and support, funding for college credits and admission exam fees and funding for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).
“I was really excited about the all-girl program we had for STEM this year, it was a great success and a start to even out the number of boys and girls heading for those careers,” Sant said.
Another program Sant started this year was an after school program called “Cocoa and Cram.”
“It was such a hit,” said Sant. “I wanted it to feel like a cozy and comfortable cafe that kids could come into and feel like they were stepping outside campus. It was a great success.”
Sant said other Gear Up activities this year included a workshop to help parents understand school funding, and a scholarship marathon.
“The list goes on. Now we are into the summer camps. We have a bio tech boot camp coming up at CWU run by college students,” said Sant. “Other camps are for robotics, biology and aviation, since CWU has an aviation program. We will also have a data analysis camp. It sounds super boring, but it blew my mind last year. It is project based learning where kids could take something they were interested in and do a project on it and present on campus at a collegiate level. The kids did really great with it.”
The Gear Up Site Director position is an employee of CWU, so hiring will be done through their human resources department.
“I hope to have someone by July so I can mentor them until July 16 and pass on the baton. If you know anyone in community that is engaging with kids, pass them my way,” said Sant. “It has been a great year and a great honor to serve the kids in this program.”
Expressing concern for the Robotics team during the public comment portion of the TSD meeting was Thomas Ray, a robotics team coach and substitute teacher with the district.
“My concerns are with keeping the program going. We need a space to operate. Also, the deletion of the middle school class program is a concern. Can we have a JV or junior program? Jumping right in at the high school level, even kids who competed at World two years ago said, 'This is hard.' It would be like being on a football field without having ever played football before,” said Ray. “With a middle school program or a JV program, we would need funding from the school, for man hours mostly.”
Ray said the team would only need one room to practice in for all the different levels.
Bobbi Catone reported on the school budget through April 30, saying it was holding steady, with enrollment the same over the last two months.
Catone said the ASB budget was also holding strong with a healthy fund balance.
“The budget is showing a projected balance of $1.3 million but I'm thinking it will be closer to $1.2 million going into the school year with maintenance projects planned for over the summer.”
ASB representative Missy Martinez said she will be serving as the ASB President next year, and that no one had yet signed up to run for ASB rep.
“It's sad, I really liked talking to you (school board) and doing reports. I learned at WASDA, the head school representative is a senior who mentors a junior. I think having two would be a great impact on Tonasket ASB,” said Martinez.
Martinez reported FBLA State Representative Seth Smith, a 2017 THS alumni, gave his retiring address at the FBLA State Convention, but is considering running for a national position with FBLA.
Superintendent Steve McCullough reported a recent audit went very well, with no findings and no management letters.
“They did not like how we accounted for an early delivery of buses, but other than that it all went well. Last year the audit had one issue, it was in food service and that checked out clean,” said McCullough, who reported that while this year's audit cost the school $11,000, next year's cost was expected to jump to $24,000.
McCullough also said the recent sandbagging done by students for flood protection had a silver lining for immediate and long-term lessons.
“The school sandbagging was for elementary students more than anyone else, but after hearing so many stories about the flood of 1972, I thought it would be good for them to be able to talk about this flood, and how they helped with sandbagging,” said McCullough. “Even if those sandbags never go anywhere, it will have a good impact on them for years to come.”