MVRHS athletic handbook finally approved

School committee avoids reprise of tumult at recent meetings over mixed-gender sports.

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The proposed chaperone policy hit close to home for MVRHS student athlete Mackenzie Condon, who frequently travels all over the country for track. She spoke out at last week's meeting, but the subject was dropped this week.

Updated 6:50 pm

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) school committee on Monday approved an owner’s project manager (OPM) for a track and field redo, signed off on a first-time standalone athletic handbook, and OK’ed two spending items related to review of school safety protocols and school bus procedures.

However, the hourlong meeting did not reference in any way a proposal made several weeks ago by member Kim Kirk to set an athletic policy to include chaperones or monitors, particularly for travel by mixed-gender teams or teams coached by opposite-sex coaches.

The proposal resulted in tumult at the past two school committee meetings, including a self-organized appearance by seven female athletes decrying the need for monitors and a walkout last week by member Jeffrey S. (“Skipper”) Manter. Monday’s meeting included Manter, and drew several members of the athletic department and a half-dozen members of the public.

The opportunity for additional discussion of mixed-gender athletic matters on Monday would have been during discussion of revisions to the new athletic handbook, a subject which two weeks ago led Kirk, an attorney and mother of an athlete on a mixed-gender team, to cite concerns over potential inappropriateness and the need for a policy around mixed-gender sports to protect the school from liability going forward.

The approved handbook content does not include language providing for same-sex monitors for mixed-gender teams or for teams coached by opposite-gender coaches.

No accusations or hints of inappropriate behavior have surfaced around MVRHS sports. The Monday meeting, however, included a sense of tension. “Was there an elephant in the room? Yes, there was,” one attendee said following the meeting.

Superintendent Matt D’Andrea set the tone for mannerly discussion at the meeting’s outset. “The new school year is a time of optimism for students. These students, and our staff, look to us to engender confidence as a school and a school district. They watch our behavior. We have tremendous responsibility to be respectful to each other, and to show we know how important this work [we are doing] is,” he said.

D’Andrea said he has called a meeting of the All-Island School Committee on Sept. 6 to develop norms for meetings. “Your attendance is crucial. Our goal is to have all members in attendance,” he said.

MVRHS Principal Sara Dingledy took the committee through a list of revisions to the athletic handbook that included a rule against changing in or out of uniforms “in a place open to the public,” including on school buses.

After virtually no discussion, the revisions were approved 6-1, with Kirk casting the dissenting vote, and one abstention.

The committee voted 6-1 and 4-2 to provide funds for a school safety audit by Synergy Enterprises and a review of its school bus routes, systems, and school bus drop-offs and pickups on school grounds by the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials (MASBO). The committee approved $5,500 for the Synergy project, and $7,900 for the MASBO review, which would make recommendations based on the existing MVRHS footprint. The committee estimated that the other six Island schools could also be reviewed by MASBO for $150 each if they choose. MASBO would not be tasked with recommending physical changes to existing footprints.

The members revisited a proposal by Adult Continuing Education (ACE MV) that several members found intriguing. The initial discussion was cut short by a power shortage in mid-PowerPoint presentation by executive director Sam Hart several weeks ago.

Under the proposal, the high school and ACE MV would link to offer postgraduate education, including certification in a variety of skills and careers. ACE MV board member Norman Werthwein said Monday that ACE MV would underwrite the executive director’s salary, and spend more time focusing on fundraising for further education targeting the 18- to 24-year-old Island cohort.

The committee members expressed enthusiasm for the idea, and discussion moved to ways and means of financing the effort, which several members cautioned should be transparent and not a line item in the annual high school budget.

The committee also began a review of the makeup of seven committees and subcommittees under its purview, asking members to review their commitments and willingness to serve on other committees and subcommittees. The matter will be taken up in-depth at the next MVRHS committee meeting on Sept. 17 at 5 pm.

The members spent some time discussing a building committee, and agreed that the three-member panel chaired by D’Andrea would begin the membership selection process. Member Amy Houghton, with member Janet Packer as backup, agreed to begin work on assembling Island representation on the regional agreement subcommittee.

Updated to include more details from meeting. – Ed.