Martha’s Vineyard school leader is ready for a new year

Martha's Vineyard superintendent of schools James H. Weiss. — Susan Safford

As we begin the 2011-2012 school year, I want to take this opportunity to reconnect with our students, their parents, and the broader community. Again this summer, we have been extremely busy with facilities projects, hiring new staff and refining the manner in which we evaluate our teachers.

Probably most important are the administrative changes that occurred over the summer. Richard Smith is now the Principal at the Oak Bluffs School, and John Custer has assumed that role at Tisbury. Mr. Smith will work with Carlin Hart as Assistant Principal, and Sean Mulvey will join Principal Custer at Tisbury. Both Deb Hart and Dan Seklecki have announced their retirements. Ms. Hart will leave the English Language Learners Coordinator’s position in October and be replaced by Leah Palmer. Dan Seklecki will transition to his next chapter in January 2012, leaving the Director of Student Services position open. We anticipate conducting a broad search for his replacement.

As many of you have probably noticed, we have been working feverishly at the West Tisbury School to complete a major renovation project, which includes new windows, new roofs, and a rebuild of the front cafeteria wall. The entire building will be finished with new shingles. Thanks to the work of a great building committee chaired by Kathy Logue, the detailed efforts of our Business Administrator Amy Tierney, an excellent general contractor and OPM, we expect to have the majority of the work completed for the opening of school.

While we did hire new staff at every building, the folks at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School and the Edgartown School were busy doing most of that hiring. Also at the High School, the two interim assistant principals, Andy Berry and Matt Malowski, were appointed to the permanent positions.

The summer was filled with some very important professional development for our staff as well. Over 50 staff members from every school were involved in the Data Coach training. Again this year, we offered the Responsive Classroom training to a group of elementary educators, expanding this program to an even broader audience. Assistant superintendent Laurie Halt spearheaded efforts at refining the language in our Professional Growth System, our evaluation and supervision program, and worked at all the elementary schools to implement the PowerSchool system of student data management.

As school is ready to start, I know there will be some significant challenges this year. The financial woes in Oak Bluffs will constrain our efforts at that school and a significant increase in target scores on the MCAS for making adequate yearly progress could have a chilling effect on our continued success in this area. We are ready for these challenges as our communities have always supported our efforts and our staff is so dedicated to their students. I know this will be another great year for Vineyard schools as we focus on students and learning once again.

Mr. Weiss is the superintendent of Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools.