Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School adds two new programs

Janet Hefler

We, the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School community, would like to take this opportunity to welcome the incoming Class of 2016, as well as all of our returning students. This school year promises to be one of great excitement at the high school, with many new staff, programs, a new teacher evaluation process, and two intense school-wide reviews.

As we put the finishing touches of preparation on our building so it is in top form for opening day, we have already started the year in motion. The staff is beginning to prepare their lessons and rooms, students are finalizing their schedules, and practices have commenced for fall sports. There has been much hard work behind the scenes from many of our staff members this summer, which will culminate in a successful opening. One of the things we put in place over the summer was the workings of two new programs.

This year we will introduce our new Special Education Therapeutic Support Program (TSP). The mission of the TSP is to provide students with individualized therapeutic interventions to ensure academic success. Such interventions take the form of individual and/or group therapy, crisis intervention, if needed, and specialized instruction through individualized educational planning. Therapeutic interventions focus on teaching appropriate social skills, encouraging affirmative choices, and rewarding the positive behaviors of students. The TSP is appropriately staffed with certified special education teachers trained in educating and supporting students with specific challenges. The program also has a clinical social worker who is experienced in implementing therapeutic interventions. In addition, there are educational support personnel (ESP) to support students’ learning in special education and general education classes. Together, the highly motivated and dedicated staff works collaboratively with parents, school personnel, and members of the Island community to support the educational success of each student in the program.

The other new program is our Alternative Program. Over the past several years we have had two alternative programs, one operating out of the building for 11th and 12th graders, and one operating within the building for 9th and 10th graders. Our new program is an in-building program for all four grades. The program has been revamped with everything from a new schedule to the hiring of new teachers. This program is designed to ensure that every student, regardless of their post-secondary plans, has the opportunity to be successful based on their specific needs and learning styles.

This past June saw the retirement of Laura Gliga, our long-time Special Education Director. Laura’s replacement is Will Verbits, who comes to us from the Needham school system, where he was the Director of Special Education for the middle schools. We have also added Allison Ritts, who will become our Social Worker and Guidance Counselor for the students in both the Alternative Program and our Therapeutic Support Program. In addition to Will and Alli, we have added an additional nine teachers, who have never worked in our system before, to fill either retirements, resignations, or to staff our new programs.

In December of this coming school year we will be going through a compliance review. The compliance review is an accountability program in which the Department of Education visits to determine if, in fact, the school is in compliance with the regulations attached to: Special Education, E.L.L., Vocational, and in the area of Civil Rights. This review requires a good deal of preparation, and will be extremely valuable to our school and to these individual departments in particular.

The second major review will take place next April and that is our New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) accreditation. The NEASC accreditation occurs every ten years and is an intense review of the entire High School as it pertains to school standards for teaching and learning, as well as support standards in this area.

There will be an in-depth look at our Core Values, Curriculum, Assessment, Instruction, School Culture and Leadership, School Resources, and Community Resources. We will host a visiting team of approximately 15 people from April 28 until May 1. This is an intensive process that will involve all our school community: teachers, administrators, students, parents, and community members.

We are very proud of what we do at MVRHS, and this process will allow us to confirm these beliefs while allowing us to take an in-depth look at what we do and what we may need to do in order to make MVRHS an even better place for our young people.

Another of the new initiatives we have put in place for the upcoming school year is our new Educator Evaluation system. The new evaluation system impacts all of the schools on the Island and covers everyone from administrators to teachers. This new system will allow us to effectively evaluate all of the educators involved and will have a beneficial impact on all classroom instruction, school leadership, and student achievement.

These three programs — the Coordinated Review, NEASC, and the new evaluation system — will allow us to look at ourselves in-depth and improve our practice to ensure that every student receives the optimum education required to make them successful both in school and in life. Along with what is new, we will continue to maintain the things that have made us the vibrant and successful school that we are.

We hope to continue to be successful in athletics, though last year will be a tough act to follow, and I’m confident our student athletes are up to the challenge. We will continue successful extra-curricular programs such as our newspaper, Peer Outreach, the Race Culture Retreat, our numerous clubs, the Science Fair, and, of course, our plays and musicals.

We are working hard to continue to show growth in both our MCAS and AP scores while still sending our graduates to so many of the top colleges. Our students will also continue to admirably represent us as they participate in: the Governor’s Statewide Youth Council, Close-Up, and the Model United Nations.

Overall, our high school is embarking on an amazing chapter in its history and we ask all of our community to be a part of it. Come to our plays, musicals, sporting events, Principal Coffees, open houses, Evening of the Arts, or any other of the numerous great events that we hold annually. Become a viable contributing part of what we do at MVRHS. Drop in, see what we do firsthand and, again, with your continued support, we will make this high school the best it can be.

Stephen Nixon was promoted to principal at MVRHS in 2008, after serving as the assistant principal since 2004 and on the faculty since 1998.