Building partnerships is a key goal

MVRHS school committee likes the idea of integrating community organizations.

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The near-future goals for Martha’s Vineyard Regional High (MVRHS) envision expanding the role of the high school as a community resource, and extending its daily use as a learning and community center in a variety of ways.

Third-year MVRHS Principal Sara Dingledy last Thursday night unveiled a real-world, concrete, four-point plan, enthusiastically received by the MVRHS school committee, that proposes to embed the Adult Continuing Education of Martha’s Vineyard (ACE MV) into the school’s education mission, transform the cafeteria into a community-use and education service, and to cost-share with Martha’s Vineyard Community Services (MVCS) to embed MVCS mental health and substance use counselors in the high school.

In a nutshell, Dingledy’s vision is that “we should focus on the primary scope of work from 7:30 am to 2:15 pm (5 pm for sports), and turn the facility over in the afternoon/evening to serve the over-18 population.”

Committee members seemed particularly responsive to the scope of Dingledy’s proposal. “We have been asking for a plan like this for long time, years before you got here, and we now have it on paper. Thank you,“ Edgartown representative Megan Anderson told Dingledy.

“This [vision] provides real context for things we’ve asked for,” member Robert Lionette said, adding, “The building stays alive and extends its useful life after 2:15 pm [school dismissal time].”

The MVRHS vision plan is an annual event, and the 2018–19 plan was encapsulated on a 1½-page document with the four overall goals, a plan to achieve each goal, and where possible, a sense of budget implications.

Goal 1: To “build a joyful and responsive community” for the student body, “where they learn skills and generate optimism in their future and commitment to their school, Island, and global community.” Insourcing the cafeteria, including ideas for catering and a food truck, and event-building around Nantucket football week, homecoming, and coffeehouses are examples.

Dingledy’s plan to extend school life beyond student dismissal time includes insourcing cafeteria services now provided by for-profit vendor Chartwells Food Service, and drew some cautionary comments, given the school outsourced food service about eight years ago after experiencing significant losses. For example, Chuck Hodgkinson, West Tisbury finance committee member, who attended the meeting, said, “If you want to get into the food service business, you have to know why you got out of it.” He suggested that Island food service companies might find it beneficial to underwrite cost in order to provide winter jobs for important summer employees.

Goal 2: Strengthen post-secondary options for all students. Ideas include offering “more vocational and transitional training for students with disabilities, alternative day options for students who work,” and using the high school as an employment model for students with disabilities and “serv[ing] as an employer for a set number of students.”

Goal 3: Continue education and career exploration after high school. This idea promoted a more robust Career Technical Education program, imbedding ACE MV educators in an ACE MV/MVRHS partnership, and partnering with disabilities services.

Goal 4: To provide a “facility that engenders pride and serves as a community hub.” Dingledy envisions renovating or building a high school that serves as a community hub, creating “rich partnerships” with groups and organizations that already use the school.

The tenor of the discussion had a “what if we …” quality in the context of making the high school a larger community destination involving public-private and private-private partnerships. Dingledy and members noted, for example, that partnerships with with ACE MV and MVCS, and operating a nonprofit cafeteria created opportunities for state and federal grants and would facilitate private fundraising as a result of increased use of the high school for community events and extended use of the building by ACE MV to offer associate’s degrees, certifications, and training for the 18-24 age cohort, and for MVRHS students choosing to remain on-Island after graduation.

Mark Friedman, MVRHS finance director, provided a first-draft look at apples-to-apples comparison of 2018–19 contractually obligated payroll and some expenses with 2017–18 spending. His numbers predicted less than one-half of 1 percent (0.40 percent) increase before 2018–19 planning begins.

The committee will dig into the potential to embed ACE MV into the curriculum within the next month. The next MVRHS board meeting is scheduled for Sept. 20 at 4:30 pm in the MVRHS library meeting room.