West Tisbury School opens with new kitchen and meal program

— File photo by Janet Hefler

The West Tisbury School has a wonderful reputation for the personal connections that exist between our faculty and our students. School begins each day for many students with a personal greeting from Sue or Orlaith, our school secretaries, who know every child by name. Each teacher also allocates a portion of the start of the school day to help build and strengthen a true sense of community in their classroom.

At the West Tisbury School we emphasize social, emotional, and academic growth in a strong and safe school community. Small class sizes plus active, project-based learning with interdisciplinary support are the hallmarks of our school.

At the West Tisbury School we pride ourselves in nourishing the development of the whole child. Students at our school excel academically, artistically, musically, athletically, and socially. A rich and vibrant curriculum enhanced by field trips, extra-curricular opportunities, and enrichment activities help make our educational programs come alive for all of our students. Because we value the full spectrum of the educational process, we do not single students out who perform well in any one domain. For this reason, we have no “honor roll,” sports Most Valuable Player awards, or blue ribbons for our outstanding artists. We remain incredibly proud of how well all of our students perform in our school, at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, and in every aspect of their lives.

The Federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation requires all schools to test and track student performance with great specificity. We are proud that our students continue to perform well on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) tests. All schools in the Commonwealth were rated in performance using the terms: Critically Low, Very Low, Low, Moderate, High, and Very High. We are proud to report that our school earned performance levels of Very High in English Language Arts (ELA) and Math. In fact, students who recently graduated from the West Tisbury School were ranked on their performance in three core academic areas and were listed as first in the state in Science, sixth in the state in Math, and eighth in the state in ELA.

For the 2012-13 school year, we are pleased to welcome several new professionals to our staff. Kristine Cammorata has taken over as our school nurse. She brings a level of experience, compassion, and energy that will serve us well.

Alice Jenkins will be our new K-8 music teacher. She is an experienced music teacher who also has a Doctorate in Drama. I am excited to have her join our staff and help reinvigorate our music program and play productions.

Zoe Turcotte has taken over our Industrial Technology class and will also be teaching 6th grade science while Carol Petkus remains out on sick leave. Zoe is an amazing teacher who has worked with us in various positions in the past. I know our students will enjoy working with her in her new role.

We are also pleased to announce that we have hired Jennifer McHugh to be our new 4th grade teacher. She has many years of service at the Edgartown School and as the Family Center Coordinator for Martha’s Vineyard Community Services and we are confident that she will be an asset to our students and the entire school community. We have also moved some of our highly skilled teaching assistants to new positions in order to best meet the needs of our students.

Like me, I know all of you were saddened to hear that Donna Lowell-Bettencourt was asked by Superintendent Weiss to fill in this year as the Director of Student Services in the Central Office. I am pleased to announce that Mary Boyd has agreed to fill in as the Assistant Principal during Donna’s absence. Mary has taught her entire career at the West Tisbury School, is deeply involved in Island-wide curriculum work, and is a Responsive Classroom trainer.

While it is extremely difficult to try and replace Donna, I think Mary’s skill set, knowledge of our students, and school goals will serve her, all of us, and our students well in this new position. Please join me in wishing both Donna and Mary the best of luck in their new positions.

Please join me also in thanking the following workers who have donated their time, energy, workers, weekends, and evenings to making our kitchen dream a working reality. While it is impossible to thank everyone who has helped us on this journey, I would like to personally thank Jason Napior of Radius Construction, David Sprague of Nelson Mechanical, David Merry of Merry and Sons, John Keene and crew, Steve Gallagher, Electrician, Dan Imbrogno and The Lawnmower Man Crew, and Nicole Cabot, West Tisbury Island Grown Schools Coordinator, for all that they have done.

We are thrilled to have hired Jenny Devivo as our head cook. She is putting together her team and preparing the kitchen for an amazing year!

On behalf of the entire faculty and staff of the West Tisbury School, I would like to welcome everybody to the start of a great new opportunity. I hope your school year is everything that you want it to be.

Michael Halt was appointed West Tisbury School’s principal in 2004, after serving as assistant principal at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School since 2000.