All-Island school committee begins with review of MCAS results
The All-Island School Committee (AISC) launched into the first meeting of the new school year on Monday night at the regional high school with discussions about student assessment results, personnel issues, and budget planning.
Assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction Laurie Halt provided a detailed presentation about 2008 Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) results for Island public schools (see article on Page 9). The AYP status for the state's schools relates to Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System exams in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics.
For the first time, Oak Bluffs School's AYP status determination for ELA was classified as needing improvement, which means that school administrators will be revising the school's improvement plan, addressing specific subjects, grade levels, and student groups that did not make AYP, and developing a written plan in three months.
Superintendent of Schools James Weiss reported that school openings went very well, with overall enrollment at about 2,100 students. October 1 is the official census day. Mr. Weiss explained that while the regional high school's enrollment shows a slight decline at 726 students, enrollment in some of the elementary schools increased slightly, so the net enrollment is similar to last year's.
An exciting change this year for teachers is the focus on developing a professional growth system, a new method of evaluating teachers that links the supervisory process to state licensure requirements, Mr. Weiss said. The kickoff for the program will be October 22 during a professional development day for teachers.
In looking at budget priorities for fiscal year 2010 (FY10), Mr. Weiss went through a list of 10 items concerning shared programs and services under the superintendent's department. As the first priority, he said there will be no new programs or positions in his budget this year and that he plans to maintain expenses at FY09 levels. The school system will be adjusting salaries, however, as required by contracts.
Among other budget priorities, Mr. Weiss is reviewing two administrative positions in his office and considering a records management program and the purchase of technical equipment and software that can be used Island-wide. He will present a draft of the superintendent's shared services budget at a meeting of the AISC on October 2 at 7 pm, in the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School library conference room.
Recapping a meeting on September 8, Mr. Weiss said the AISC personnel subcommittee agreed to include a four percent pool of money in the FY10 budget for salary increases for non-union personnel and administrators. In other business, the personnel committee also reviewed a form revamped by AISC chairman Dan Cabot, which is used to evaluate the superintendent. The AISC approved the updated version Monday night.
Mr. Weiss also reported on his discussion about teacher retention issues with the personnel subcommittee. Noting that affordable housing is a critical issue in hiring and keeping teachers, he said he has been talking with members of the Bridge Housing Corporation affordable housing project in Tisbury, who suggested that the public school system and Martha's Vineyard Hospital each purchase one or two housing units to help solve their employees' housing needs.
Mr. Weiss said purchasing the housing and making it available to new teachers could provide them with an opportunity to transition to Island life and allow them time to look around for housing of their own.
In addition, recognizing that some teachers and school staff may prefer to live on the mainland and commute to the Vineyard, Mr. Weiss is discussing the possibility of discounted rates with Steamship Authority leaders. Presently about a dozen personnel commute, he noted.