West Tisbury School’s computer education program recognized by Apple

West Tisbury School’s computer education program received recognition as an Apple Exemplary Program for the 2010-11 school year at the Up-Island Regional School District (UIRSD) school committee meeting Monday night at Chilmark School.

Apple representatives Dan DelVecchio, senior systems engineer, and Steve Kowalski, K12 account executive, presented a framed certificate to West Tisbury School staff members, including interim principal Donna Lowell-Bettencourt, interim assistant principal Sean Mulvey, technology teacher Valerie Becker, system administrator David Crawford, and fifth-grade teacher Sue Miller.

West Tisbury School’s Student Expert Learner Program received the designation for the second year in a row and is the only one Apple recognized in the state of Massachusetts, among 40 programs nationwide.

Apple designs and manufactures consumer electronics and computer software products such as Macintosh computers, iPhones, iPods, and iPads.

The Apple Exemplary Program designation is reserved for educational programs that are model implementations of Apple products and solutions, according to a letter from Apple vice president of education John Couch to superintendent of schools James Weiss.

Only programs that have demonstrated a strong use of Apple technology in education and illustrate “best practice” qualities of a 21st century learning environment are honored in this way.

“I was especially impressed by your use of Mac OS X Snow Leopard Server to enable your students and teachers to communicate and collaborate via wikis and blogs in support of the Rock Our World global learning project,” Mr. Couch wrote.

Budget concerns

Under the financial report, the school committee discussed the West Tisbury Finance Committee’s (FinCom) vote on March 15 to reject the fiscal year 2012 budget the committee approved last December. The FinCom agreed to ask voters at annual town meeting on April 12 to level-fund the school district’s budget to FY11 levels, for a decrease of $190,151 overall and $252,085 less for West Tisbury’s assessment.

Mr. Weiss said that in discussion at the meeting, FinCom members indicated they considered their vote a symbolic gesture of protest.

UIRSD chairman and West Tisbury Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter told the FinCom that approval of the district budget would only require approval by 2 of the 3 member towns, which include West Tisbury, Aquinnah and Chilmark. Since Aquinnah’s and Chilmark’s assessments are lower in the UIRSD FY12 budget, Mr. Manter said it was likely those towns would approve it, and the regional agreement would remain intact.

However, Mr. Weiss said he realized after he left the FinCom meeting that state regulations require that all three towns approve the regional agreement assessments unanimously or they would have to be redone using the state’s statutory assessment formula.

Mr. Weiss suggested that at West Tisbury’s town meeting, “It would be appropriate for members of the school committee to speak to the fact we put forward a budget we feel is appropriate.” The school committee agreed to meet at 6 pm on April 11 to prepare remarks for the meeting and to discuss school issues with a group of parents.

Principal Michael Halt’s return

In the superintendent’s report, Mr. Weiss said he received notification from the U.S. Marine Corps that Lt. Col. Michael Halt applied for reinstatement to his job on or about April 20 as West Tisbury School principal when he returns from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. Ms. Lowell-Debettencourt said a school celebration is planned for Mr. Halt on April 27.

Mr. Weiss said he would come up with a plan for Mr. Halt’s transition back into his job as principal, and also determine what roles interim principal Donna Lowell-Bettencourt and interim assistant principal Sean Mulvey will fill.

The contracts for their temporary positions during Mr. Halt’s absence run through June 30, Mr. Weiss said. Both will have the opportunity to apply for the position of assistant principal, who would probably be hired in May and start July 1.

Mr. Weiss said that Mr. Mulvey was hired for a one-year position, with the expectation another position might be available in the school system for him at the end of that time. Ms. Lowell-Bettencourt has the option to return for her previous position as library/media specialist at Edgartown School.

Mr. Weiss also provided the latest enrollment projections for the UIRSD from the New England School Development Council, which indicate enrollments will be fairly stable over the next four to five years.

In the principals’ reports, Chilmark School head of school Susan Stevens reported the source of a roof leak has been determined and repairs were started during February vacation.

Ms. Lowell-Debettencourt noted that West Tisbury School recently replaced older student classroom computers, upgraded a laptop cart, and provided teaching staff with iPads through a combination of funding and discounts including a REAP grant, a sale on first generation iPads, a credit from Apple from a previous purchase, and funds from the budget technology line over the next two years.